Sonrisas Spanish Blog

spanish curriculumThe benefits of learning a second language are numerous and substantial. Whether it’s a Spanish curriculum or really any foreign language, it’s been proven that bilingual employees earn, on average, 20% more per hour than monolingual employees. With statistics like this in mind, more and more school districts across the country have started implementing, or are considering, “dual-language programs,” according to

The specifics of these programs vary across the board. Some emphasize the programs early with things like preschool Spanish lessons or an entire elementary school Spanish curriculum and then transition to English-only after a few years. Others continue the programs indefinitely, but the overall goal is to build literacy and proficiency in more than one language.

While many of these types of programs were primarily started to help children of minorities who speak only a foreign language at home, the effects have helped English-speaking kids as well. One Michigan State study in 2013 found that there was a “substantial spillover effect” for children who enrolled in schools with bilingual education programs from English-only homes.

Theoretically a new language can be learned at any age, but early involvement with foreign language, like an elementary Spanish curriculum, is profoundly better. Many countries mandate the introduction of foreign language in schools by age eight. Students in the United States, however, may wait until junior or senior high school for their first exposure to a foreign language curriculum, thus only having four years of study versus 10 or 12 years when introduced earlier.

One school in particular that has taken this approach with much success is Los Angeles’ Cam­ino Nuevo Charter Academy. Since they are a charter school they are allowed to begin teaching dual-language Spanish curriculum for kids as early as kindergarten. They also emphasize culturally relevant literature in the programs.

Whether it be for children learning English as a second language or native English speakers, the evidence is that learning a new language can help in many more ways than just being fluent in a foreign tongue. Of course it’s also been proven that children who learn a second language can learn a third faster as well.

The Sonrisas Level II lessons are divided into seven thematic units. We designed these themes to have relevance in the context of young students’ lives. In each unit, students interpret written and spoken language, engage in conversations, and present information using background knowledge from their own lives while learning new language concepts. This allows them to acquire meaningful and useful language skills, rather than merely learning vocabulary in isolation. All of the thematic units are centered around one big idea, or central question, “What are the experiences that make us human?”

One of the biggest differences between humans and animals, plants, or objects is simply that humans possess the gift of language. We are able to communicate in thousands of languages, and in doing so, express our worldviews, cultures, and values. By centering our thematic units around diverse topics related to the human experience, we give our students an awareness of the power of language to interpret the world around us with our uniquely human perspective. As humans, we have a history of using cultural and linguistic differences as barriers. If we can help our students see that our differences are expressions of our shared humanity, then we are teaching them tolerance and compassion in addition to language skills. If this seems like a lofty goal for the language classroom, we would argue that the foreign language classroom is perfectly suited for this purpose. By learning Spanish, our students have the unique opportunity to remove one barrier between themselves and the Spanish-speaking world.

By organizing the units thematically, we also provide an opportunity to engage our students in more complex and sophisticated thinking and language use. Because no skills are taught in isolation, the focus stays on developing skills for effective communication. The questions in the graphic below are the essential questions that guide each thematic unit:

The essential question in each thematic unit connects the content of each lesson to the theme. At the beginning of each thematic unit, you will find a thematic unit overview page with a graphic map (similar to the one above) that illustrates the connection between the lessons and the essential question. The essential question also allows you to differentiate instruction based on your unique knowledge of Spanish-speaking cultures and your understanding of your students. You can bring each lesson to life by making a personal connection between the content and your students. The thematic unit overview page also provides guiding questions that help you do this, such as:

  • What matters about this theme to my students?
  • What will be engaging about this theme for my students?
  • How can I ensure that they see the connection between this theme and their own lives?
  • How can I use my own experience with Spanish-speaking cultures to give my students a unique perspective of the target culture in relationship to this theme?

Planning your lessons with the thematic overview in mind will allow you to maintain a focus on the theme of the unit as you teach. This will make all of the activities in your lessons more effective.

Nineteen years ago I started teaching Spanish to elementary and preschool students in Austin, TX. At the time, I did it because I was asked to by parents. Parents in my neighborhood wanted their children to learn Spanish. I was a certified ELL, bilingual elementary and early childhood teacher, and so I started teaching Spanish to youngsters.

I now find myself living and working in a community in Colorado where parents, not schools, are still leading the charge to get their children learning foreign languages in elementary school. I’ve read all the research behind early exposure to second language learning, but it’s been a while and I decided to give myself a refresher lesson. I found no less than dozens of well-documented studies—all pointing to tangible benefits of FLES (Foreign Language in Elementary Schools) programs. I write this as a plea to public school administrators to make early second language programs a priority.

Reason #1 Research says elementary students learn a second language better than older students.

Experts say young children are especially wired to learn foreign languages in the most natural ways, through play and exploration. Research indicates that the brain is at its optimum to learn foreign sounds in children under 10. Students who learn a language early improve their chances for native-like pronunciation and a high level of proficiency later on (

On the American Council for the Teaching of Foreign Language (ACTFL) website, multiple studies (reprinted with permission from the Center for Applied Linguistics) are referenced in support of more effective language learning in younger students. One study shows 11th grade French students with just 80 minutes of instruction per week starting in third grade outperformed another group that started French in 7th grade. The FLES French students’ performance was better in every area. In another study, classes of third-grade children in New York City and suburban New York schools were taught conversational French for 15 minutes daily. After 1 year they were evaluated for French skills. Children were judged to have pronunciation and fluency in French superior to that of high school students with the same amount of instruction. Another study shows FLES students outperforming non-FLES students on AP foreign language exams (

How many of us who start studying a foreign language in high school actually become fluent in that language? I don’t know the answer, but I know it’s a slim figure. If we want to produce bilingual citizens, we need to start teaching language earlier.

Reason #2 Research says people who learn another language are smarter.

Multiple studies show that early-start language learning improves cognitive skills and academic performance. Foreign language study contributes to brain development and overall learning. People who learn a second language score higher on reading, verbal fluency, and general intelligence assessments. In fact, the more languages people learn, the higher their scores, with speakers of over four languages scoring consistently higher than any other group. Furthermore, learning a second language improves fluid intelligence and ‘executive functioning,’ because you have to control the two languages you know. While you communicate in one language, you’ve got to manage and control the other language (Kathryn Doyle, Washington Post, June 9, 2014).

The ACTFL website cites multiple studies (again, reprinted with permission from the Center for Applied Linguistics) that support this claim. A study in Cincinnati demonstrated that students involved in a foreign language magnet program (from a broad demographic cross-section) scored well above national norms in reading and mathematics. Another study supported the claim that bilingualism fosters better verbal and spatial abilities. Another study showed improved reading achievement after participation in a voluntary before and after-school FLES program. Another study of 4th graders receiving 20 minutes of Spanish instruction per day showed greater reading, vocabulary, and comprehension on the ITBS (Iowa Test of Basic Skills), while another study showed improved ITBS scores after just 30 minutes of FLES instruction per week. Other studies showed FLES students outperforming non FLES students in divergent thinking ability, IQ tests, SAT math and verbal tests, reading skills, expressive oral productivity, verbal and nonverbal intelligence, math skills, listening skills, speaking skills, writing skills, mental flexibility, and creativity (

Why and how does this happen? Children gain a deeper understanding of English as they learn the structure and vocabulary of other languages. This understanding translates into more confidence in English and a greater command of the language. Furthermore, learning a second language fosters a flexibility of thinking that translates into math, creativity, and problem solving. Because students have enjoyed the benefits of early foreign language study, they are less likely to treat language as a meaningless academic requirement later on—instead seeing language as a tool to be used for a wide range of educational applications, career choices, and personal enjoyment. The research is prolific and undeniably in support of the claim that learning a second language in elementary school makes us smarter.

Reason #3 Demographics are changing in our country, and we are now living in multilingual, multi-cultural communities.

Even in rural communities such as mine, this is true. Speaking other languages continues to be an important asset that gains more value with each passing year. Our world is an increasingly interdependent world. We are no longer an isolated country in which there are no tangible benefits to speaking other languages.

When we make second language learning a priority in our elementary schools, we develop a greater openness to other cultures at a younger age. As students learn a foreign language, they learn about the people and countries where the language is spoken—including the history, traditions, customs, and geography of those countries. Learning a second language broadens students’ global awareness and sets the stage for global competency. Students acquire a more global perspective and gain insight into their own language and culture. Studying a second language in elementary school develops an early understanding of the relationship between cultures and languages.

Many developed countries require instruction in one or two foreign languages in elementary school. Slowly, states are starting to recognize the value in this. In 2002 Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Maine, New York, Oklahoma, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming all had state mandates for elementary second language study. Indiana, California, and Kansas state governments had policy language that highly encouraged elementary school study of second languages ( ). In 2008, Utah became the first state to legislate funding for large-scale implementation of dual-language and immersion programs. Delaware has a plan to bring programs to more schools (Michael Alison Chandler, The Washington Post, October 31, 2014). New Jersey provides foreign language instruction in 90% of all public schools, including elementary schools ( Despite being a local control state with no state mandates, by 2011 over 215 school districts in Pennsylvania offered FLES programs ( I find this last statistic the most intriguing— a state implementing wide-spread foreign language study at the elementary level not because of a state mandate, but because they recognize that it’s best practice in education. Perhaps it’s most intriguing to me because I too live in a local control state—one that hasn’t been as proactive on a local level as Pennsylvania. Perhaps Pennsylvania can serve as a model for Colorado to use local control to implement best practice in our public elementary schools.

After teaching Spanish to children for most of my adult life, I decided to write this blog to remind myself why I do this. Early language learning contributes to learning languages better, higher performance in all academic areas, and most important, a lifelong ability to communicate effectively. Parents want this for their children. Perhaps the question I started with needs to be reworded: Remind me why every elementary school in our country doesn’t teach foreign languages?

Blue Lindner, Sonrisas Spanish

Sonrisas Spanish creates, publishes, and sells preschool and elementary Spanish curriculum. The Sonrisas Spanish Curriculum consists of fun, effective, standards-based Spanish lessons for children.

One of the important changes in the recent revisions of Sonrisas Level I and Sonrisas Level II is the addition of the student assessment pages in the student portfolios. They serve as valuable summative assessments for teachers and students. Combined with ongoing formative assessments, the new student assessment pages contribute to the effectiveness of the Sonrisas Curriculum. Below is an explanation of how to use the different assessment pieces while implementing the curriculum.

In the Sonrisas Curriculum, you can assess your students’ progress using both formative and summative assessments. Formative assessments are ongoing assessments that monitor student learning and guide instruction. The goals for each lesson are listed in both the Communication Objective and the Language Outcomes. Keeping these in mind while you teach can help you assess the progress your students are making in achieving these goals, both through observation and by looking at their written work.

Through the songs, games, lesson activities, shared reading, and conversations during Story Time, Art Time, and Partner Time, you can get a very clear picture of how well each student is communicating. This type of formative assessment will guide which activities need review and practice in subsequent lessons. Of course, every student is different: Some perform much better in a group environment—while they are engaged in interpersonal communication—than they do during independent activities. Observational assessments can provide you with this insight.

You can also use students’ written work in Partner Time, Art Time, and Portfolio activities as formative assessments to see how well they have retained and integrated the Language Outcomes for each lesson. This will help guide which activities need more repetition and reinforcement. If you find that students are unable to demonstrate correct usage of the Language Outcomes, you can adjust your instruction to address their needs. Language concepts that need more work can be reviewed by doing lesson activities from previous lessons during Circle Time. You can continue this review until you feel that students are proficient with the language concepts. If need be, you can also repeat Partner Time and Portfolio activities.

Summative assessments evaluate student learning using specific metrics. The Student Assessment page in the Student Portfolio is a summative assessment that covers each lesson. It contains the Communication Objective for each lesson along with “I can” statements and a check box for each Language Outcome in the lesson. The Communication Objective and the Language Outcomes provide the metrics by which you can evaluate student learning. In order to achieve the Communication Objective, students need to demonstrate correct usage of the Language Outcomes. There are three different ways to fill out the Student Assessment page: You can do it, the student can do it, or you and the student can do it together.

If you are filling out the Student Assessment page without the student, use the art projects, Partner Time activities, Portfolio activities, and your observations to complete the assessment. Depending on the age and skill level of your students, they can fill out their own assessments by reflecting on the art project, Partner Time activity, and reviewing their Portfolio Activity as evidence for the assessment. (It’s worth noting that it can be very empowering for students to realize how much Spanish they have mastered.) Choosing to fill out the assessments with your students will give you the most accurate, complete summative assessment possible. If you are able to engage your student in Spanish during this assessment and observe their proficiency of the Language Outcomes, you will have the most accurate picture of their skills.

Keep in mind that each level of the Sonrisas curriculum is designed to be repeated for a second year. Chances are, your students will not fully achieve the Communication Objective the first time, which is completely acceptable. Ideally, through the repetition of the lessons in the curriculum and the ongoing review of lesson activities, students will master the Language Outcomes that support the Communication Objectives. We recommend keeping a copy of each student’s Student Assessment, so the second time you teach the lesson, you are able to note progress between the initial summative assessment and the second summative assessment.

Along with your own observations, the Student Portfolio is your most valuable assessment tool. Here are some tips that will help students keep their portfolios organized and tidy:

  • Keep several three-hole punchers on hand so that students can add work to their portfolios as soon as it is complete.
  • Give a mini-lesson on how to use the hole punchers accurately, including paying careful
    attention to placing the holes on the left side of the page.
  • Consider a place other than students’ desks to store portfolios. This will keep them in better shape throughout the school year.
  • For younger students, consider putting work in their portfolios for them.

Another option is to purchase an individual spiral-bound hard copy of the Student Portfolio for each student. You can buy these in bulk on the Sonrisas website.

The lessons in the Sonrisas Spanish Curriculum give students an opportunity to interact in all three modes of communication—interpretive, interpersonal, and presentational. The three modes of communication describe how learners use and interact with language in real-world contexts. Here, we present a brief overview of these modes and the types of activities in our curriculum that engage them.

In Interpretive Communication students comprehend written, oral, or visual communication on a variety of topics without any active negotiation of meaning. In the Sonrisas Spanish curriculum students engage in this mode by listening to stories, reading brief text excerpts and viewing images in various activities, and reading instructions for portfolio activities.

In Interpersonal Communication students engage in two-way oral or written communication with active negotiation of meaning to share information, feelings, and opinions. This is the meat of the Sonrisas lessons. In every segment—Circle Time, Story Time, Art Time, and Partner Time—students have the opportunity to engage in interpersonal communication with the teacher and their classmates. Students engage in this mode by singing songs, playing games, doing lesson activities, engaging in shared reading, conversing about art projects, and completing Partner Time activities.

In Presentational Communication students present spoken or written information that is prepared for an audience. In the Sonrisas lessons students present completed art projects, they share information from Partner Time activities, and they present written work from portfolio activities.

Obviously, beginner students are not going to be able to read long texts, engage in complex conversations, or present large amounts of information. The activities in the Sonrisas lessons are designed so that students are taught language concepts that enable them to interact in the three modes at an age-appropriate level. Through routine, repetition, and spiraling of content, students develop their Spanish so that they are able to communicate effectively in order to function in a variety of age-appropriate situations and for multiple purposes.

Sonrisas Spanish is going through a big transition right now. We have completely revised our Level II Curriculum, and we have changed what is included with our Level I and Level II curricula. These changes are the culmination of over a year’s worth of research and development, and they represent an effort to make our curriculum more user-friendly and complete for teachers and more effective for students.

What is included with the curriculum now?

We heard from many of customers that they wanted workbook activities for their students. We listened, and we developed our Student Portfolio for Levels I and II (we will write about the difference between a workbook and a portfolio in future blogs). Each level now includes the Student Portfolio in both a hard copy and a digital version, and the portfolio is fully reproducible. The Level I Student Portfolio contains portfolio activities, student assessment pages, and home reports. The portfolio activities correspond to each lesson in the curriculum and give students practice with the language concepts for the lesson. The portfolio activities also help to develop independent reading and writing skills in Spanish. The student assessment pages give teachers a tool to evaluate student learning, and the home reports let parents know what their child is learning in Spanish.

The Level II Student Portfolio contains portfolio activities, Partner Time activities, student assessment pages, and home reports. Partner Time activities correspond to each lesson and give students the opportunity to engage in conversation with their peers as they use their Spanish to complete a task. During Partner Time, students use all three modes of communication—interpretive, interpersonal, and presentational. Partner Time has greatly enhanced the learning experience for students in the Level II lessons.

Level I and Level II also now include a resource CD. The resource CD contains visual aids for the lessons as well as a digital version of the Student Portfolio. Many of the activities in the Sonrisas lessons require teachers to show students images to introduce a concept. These images are now included on the resource CD. Likewise, many of the art projects require teachers to show the students a model of a finished project. Now, a teacher can print out a model of a finished art project instead of having to create it herself.

How has Level II been revised?

The first thing to note about the new Level II is that it has more than doubled in content. We added 17 new lessons, for a total of 37. With Partner Time and the portfolio activities, each lesson can now be implemented for up to four class sessions (up from two in the old curriculum). The Student Portfolio alone has added 74 Partner Time and portfolio activities that give students more practice with the language concepts for each lesson.

Another positive change is that Level II is now organized around seven thematic units: Seasons; My School; Numbers; My Family and Friends; Food, Water, and Shelter; A Global Perspective; and Celebrating Diversity. Each unit comes with an unit overview that guides teachers on how to make the unit a comprehensive, connected, and effective experience for students. Many of the unit lessons connect to the core subjects of mathematics, social studies, geography, science, and reading and writing. The lessons also begin to lay the foundation for more explicit grammar instruction with students developing skills related to use of adjectives, pronouns, prepositions, interrogative words, and verb conjugation. The correlation to grammatical concepts can be seen in a revised Level II scope and sequence.

We tweaked the lesson format and some of the terminology to make lessons more clear and easier to use for teachers. On the Lesson Overview page, we changed the name of the Performance Guidelines to Language Outcomes. The Language Outcomes are the language skills that students learn in the lesson in order to achieve the Communication Objective. Also on the overview page, the Circle Time box now highlights the Lesson Activity which introduces the language concepts for the lesson. On the Lesson Procedure page, the required resource CD images for the lesson are listed, and the Standard Correlations are now listed at the end of each procedure as opposed to throughout the lesson. Each lesson now also has a Partner Time page which guides teachers through the partner time activity, step-by-step. Click here to see a sample of one of the new Level II lessons. These formatting changes have been made to the Level I lessons as well.

Finally, both Levels I and II have been greatly improved by making it easier for teachers to assess students’ learning. The new student portfolios give teachers the opportunity to use both formative and summative assessments (more on these in future blogs) to monitor and evaluate student learning. This allows teachers to be able to adjust their teaching if need be, and to judge the outcome of their classes. The retooling of the assessment portion of the Sonrisas lessons has made them more effective than ever.

All of these changes build on the strengths of the Sonrisas Spanish Curriculum and reinforce our goal of creating life-long language learners by providing students with a positive foreign language experience in which they acquire and develop language naturally and easily.

You probably are without even realizing it, because it just makes sense. In her book, Beyond Bilingualism: Multilingualism and Multilingual Education, Myriam Met describes what content-based language instruction looks like. Content-based language instruction reflects the real-life language needs of students.1 This is consistent with a focus on communicative language as opposed to language skills in isolation. It provides students with the opportunity to use language as it functions in the real world. Content-based instruction allows the teacher to communicate authentic meanings, for authentic purposes, and to accomplish authentic tasks. A teacher takes a thematic and a problem-solving approach to curriculum design, creating real or simulated real-life tasks.2 Vocabulary and grammar are taught in clusters related to the given content, but meaning is always the focus of instruction, experiences, and tasks.

Ideally an elementary Spanish curriculum allows for a deep level of cognitive engagement that is appropriate to the language proficiency level of the students. In order to be effective, students must have the language proficiency needed to meet the demands of the content instruction. For example, determining the kinds of houses most appropriate to different climates is significantly more cognitively demanding than simply looking out the window to describe today’s weather, or describing one’s ideal house.3 However, looking out the window every day to describe weather and drawing one’s ideal house are development activities that help foster a level of language proficiency needed to reach the higher cognitive demands of determining the type of house appropriate for different climates.

When teaching limited-proficiency students, it is important to choose content that is connected to concrete experiences. This means that instruction includes lots of visual aids and hands-on activities that allow for comprehensible input.4 For example, a science experiment or demonstration often allows for meaning to be conveyed through the experience itself. Well-illustrated literature, either fiction or non-fiction, provides comprehensible input by conveying the meaning of the text through the pictures in the story.

For the youngest language learners (preK-1), content-based instruction means exchanging information about personal needs, wants, and preferences, and the ability to talk about the world around them. If we look at early elementary content taught in other subject areas, we can create Spanish language lessons that enforce developing skills in math, colors, days of the week, months of the year, families, homes of people and animals, and community.5 Furthermore, we can use the language classroom to support physical education, gross and fine-motor skills, music education, rhythm, awareness of self, culture and community, geography, civics and service, fine arts, performing arts, and physical and emotional health.

There is a broad spectrum of content-based language curricula. On one end of the spectrum is content-driven instruction. This is found primarily in immersion programs where 50-100% of a student’s school day is conducted in the second language. On the other end of the spectrum is language-driven, content-based instruction. This is most commonly found in FLES programs, where a teacher has designated periods throughout the week to teach the second language.6 In these classrooms, language instruction reinforces content, but students receive primary content instruction in English. These language programs are also referred to as content-related programs. The Sonrisas Spanish Curriculum can be considered a language-driven, content-related program.

Even though a FLES teacher may not be required to teach content from the core subjects, this doesn’t mean that he or she doesn’t. Language teachers are able to teach content that classroom teachers may not feel they have time to teach. Content such as global and social awareness, cultural tolerance, gross and fine motor skills, music, and art are extremely valuable for developing children, These subjects lend themselves perfectly to language instruction, and meet the content-based definition of communicating authentic meaning, for authentic purposes, to accomplish authentic tasks.


[1] Met, Myriam. “Curriculum Decision-Making in Content-based Language Teaching.” Ed. Cenoz, Jasone, and Fred Genesee. Beyond Bilingualism: Multilingualism and Multilingual Education. (Clevedon, England: Multilingual Matters Ltd., 1998) 36.

2 Met, 36.

3 Met, 38.

4 Met, 42-43.

5 Met, 43.

6 Met, p. 40

We have all heard about the importance and need for collaboration among educators. Grade-level teachers should collaborate to align outcomes. Within content areas, teachers should collaborate to align standards and instructional practices. Administrators should collaborate to become better instructional coaches. What about preschool and elementary Spanish teachers? Many of us work alone, with no other foreign language teachers on our campus. Many of us don’t even have a classroom. Most of our colleagues don’t understand foreign language education. Even though all of this may be true, the fact is that elementary and preschool teachers should collaborate too.

The benefits of collaboration in education are widely-recognized. Teachers experience greater job satisfaction. Instruction becomes more efficient and effective. Student achievement increases. The challenge for preschool and elementary Spanish teachers is that we often work alone, in a subject that is not understood by most, and we may not feel a real connection to the staff in our schools. That being said, there are ways to overcome these obstacles and engage in meaningful collaboration that will benefit you and your students.

  • Even though there may not be other foreign language teachers at your school, you can still gain insights into instructional practices and classroom management from other content-area teachers. Make the time to talk to other teachers at your school. You may not share planning time with other teachers, so seek them out during their planning time or go to the teachers’ lounge during lunch time. Have specific questions for them. Most teachers are happy to share knowledge and experience.
  • Seek out other foreign language teachers in your district and find a time to meet with them regularly. Even if you do this just once a semester, it will help you.
  • Join a professional organization such as NNELL or ACTFL. Both of these organizations have a wealth of resources for foreign language teachers. Sonrisas Spanish also offers ongoing support for users of our curriculum. You can call our office any time and speak to us.
  • Do some professional reading.
  • Talk to the principal of your school. Increasingly, administrators are being asked to take on the role of instructional leaders. Take advantage of this. Many principals have a background as a classroom teacher, and their insights can be of great value.

The amazing thing about collaboration is that often the simple act of sharing your ideas and listening to others’ ideas can change your perspective and give you new energy and direction.

During the recent break for the holidays, Blue and I were talking about one of the most overlooked and valuable strategies for teachers — reflection. Reflection gives you the opportunity to ask yourself, “What is working in my teaching? What is not working? What do I need to change and how can I do it? What do I want my students to come away with when they are finished with my class?” These are important questions, but while we are in the thick of planning, prepping, and teaching it is challenging to find the time to address them. When you reflect on your teaching you come face-to-face with what I feel is one of the joys of teaching — the intellectual challenge of constant improvement. It is all too easy to fall into a teaching routine where things are going ok, but you are not really striving to improve. Because teaching is such a complex and dynamic endeavor there is always opportunity for change and improvement, but this requires reflection. It requires the intellectual effort to ask meaningful questions and take specific actions to improve. If you can carve out the time to do this—whether it is once a week, once a month, or once a semester—your teaching will be more effective, and your students will benefit.

Sonrisas Spanish creates, publishes, and sells preschool and elementary Spanish curriculum. The Sonrisas Spanish Curriculum consists of fun, effective, standards-based Spanish lessons for children.

Here at Sonrisas Spanish we are big fans of good books, and by “good books” we mean books that are effective at teaching Spanish to children. Quiero a los Animales, by Flora McDonnell, is a good book. It includes two important elements of an effective teaching book: illustrations that convey the meaning of the text and clear, thematic vocabulary that allows for multiple teaching opportunities.

Quiero a los animales has huge, gorgeous illustrations. The sheer size of each one, covering both the left and right-hand pages of the book, engages children’s imagination and draws them into the story. The illustrations are not only beautiful, but they are also effective teaching tools because they explicitly convey the meaning of the text on each page and enable multiple teaching opportunities. Take this page for example:

There is a simplicity to the illustrations that at the same time captures a vibrancy and vivaciousness of the animals that are portrayed. Part of this feeling comes from the expressions on the animals’ faces.

The vocabulary in Quiero a los animales is focused around the theme of animals, me gusta, and me encanta. Either of these themes is an obvious choice to teach using this book, but each page contains multiple teaching opportunities. After reading the this page to students, a teacher can draw students into the story and work with multiple language chunks such as:

—     Me gusta la cabra. ¿Te gusta la cabra a ti?

—     Mira la cara de la cabra. ¿Cómo está la cabra?

—     Mira el pelo de la cabra. ¿De qué color es? (los cuernos, los ojos, la nariz, etc.)

—     ¿La cabra camina, o la cabra corre?

—     Mira la correa de la cabra. ¿Está rota?

It is this combination of great illustrations, simplicity of text, and depth of teaching opportunities that makes Quiero a los animales so wonderful. I would highly recommend it if you are in need of a good book. Quiero a los animales is now available in the Sonrisas Bookstore.