Risas y Sonrisas Spanish for Kids is a multi-sensory, conversational Spanish course that can be used in elementary school from kindergarten through fifth grade. While the program is designed primarily for children who can read, non-readers learn a great deal through the animated songs, games, practical Q&A, and signing with ASL.
Children learn through repetition, but with Risas y Sonrisas, repetition is always different. This is a true multi-sensory program that uses music, playing games, listening to and watching videos with songs and skits, movement (including sign language), color-coding words, pictures, reading, role-play, drawing, and writing. Lessons cover the basics such as alphabet, numbers, colors, shapes, family, days, months, seasons, weather, directions time, emotions, and greetings, as well as themes including the body parts, school, food, the house, opposites, verbs, animals, occupations, places, and clothing. Each chapter includes a skit that combines vocabulary with conversation and a “cultural point” such as a page about piñatas.
The Homeschool Program is designed to be used with small groups of students. It’s the small version of the original school program. It will work for teaching one to four students, although you will need extra sets of student workbooks for each additional child. The program is ideal for at least two students since there are interactive skits and other games and activities that are more fun when done by two or more students.
The Homeschool Program includes online access for one year plus physical resources. The physical resources are the Homeschool Instructor Manual, the Student Book, a set of four activity workbooks, a music CD, 46 mini-posters, 336 mini cards with vocabulary pictures and words, 14 bingo cards, 162 cognate picture cards (with a folder), Hispanic Culture Cards, a Hispanic countries map, and 48 mini-cards with flags and regions. You can purchase individual student logins if you want more than one child working online in the program at the same time.
The Interactive Online Program
Online access includes:
Animated Song Videos - more than 30 original songs and lyrics with colorful illustrations.
Sign and Sing Videos for each theme - teaches all of the songs in the program plus practical questions and answers with American Sign Language (ASL). Teaching sign language is optional. The objective is to associate a hand movement with a Spanish word.
Lyrics and Audio of Songs - presents the lyrics with or without the audio to make it easier for children to read, sing and learn the songs.
Interactive Flashcards - for 14 themes with 24 vocabulary words each. Children can hear the pronunciation for each picture as they match up words and pictures.
Bubble Game - eight bubbly pictures appear, and students need to touch the word they read and hear as quickly as they can to get the highest score.
Interactive Dominos - the same game as the printed dominos in the program. The goal is to find the tile that matches either the picture or the word to form one of the six squares for each theme.
Skits - native Spanish-speaking children act out skits with Spanish subtitles provided. The scripts are also in the book and workbooks with English translations. The actors speak quickly so it will be necessary to sometimes pause the video to be able to follow the conversation and perhaps read the translation from one of the books. By the time children watch a skit, they are familiar with several phrases and vocabulary, so they should be able to follow much more easily. The conversations are important since they give students a feel for how the language is spoken.
Questions and Answers - build basic vocabulary as students learn to ask questions such as, “Do you like?” and “Do you want?” Once a student learns in one theme how to ask and answer, then it’s just a matter of substituting with new vocabulary from other themes.
Illustrated displays - for the themes that don’t have interactive flashcards or games. These are for the pronunciation of some of the unusual Spanish letters and sounds, gender (masculine and feminine), the verb “to be” (ser, estar, tener), personal pronouns, the calendar, time, family, and setting the table.
Progress reports - Instructors can monitor student progress. Reports include scores and time spent on each activity.
Physical Product Details
The Homeschool Instructor Manual - explains the program, shows you how to prepare your materials, has instructions for games, and provides lesson plans for four semesters (meeting for one hour twice a week).
Student Book - the beautiful, hardcover book covering all of the course content is printed in full color with great illustrations throughout.
Workbooks - four workbooks each have about 45-47 pages. These are heavily illustrated but are printed in black and white. Children draw, write words, circle the correct answers, do syllable match-ups, unscramble letters of Spanish words, and write short phrases and sentences. They include the conversation skit scripts and song lyrics as well as Spanish/English flashcards for vocabulary words and questions and answers. Students have all of the reference material they will need within the workbooks so they do not have to refer back to the hardcover book. This means you only need to purchase extra workbooks and no extra hardcover books for students in the same family.
Music CD - presents 39 songs to help students learn Spanish. (Songs are also online.)
Cognate cards and flashcards - Learning cognates—words that are similar in both English and Spanish—makes it easier to pick up a beginning vocabulary in Spanish. The cognate picture cards set and a cognate folder, along with the online audio, help accomplish this. The instructions encourage parents to have children create a writing journal using the simple sentences they learn and the cognate picture cards to come up with vocabulary words they can easily substitute into sentences such as, “Mi animal favorito es….” The cognate picture cards, as well as the other flashcards, are printed in full color on perforated, heavy card stock. The flashcards include domino tiles for children to match pictures to words for vocabulary practice. I think this is a great idea! There are also cards for practicing the proper conjugation of verbs and the personal pronoun forms. Instructions for additional games with the dominoes flashcards are in the instructor’s guide. (While some basics of grammar such as conjugations are covered, this is really a conversational course.)
As you can see, there are many components that help in making lessons unpredictable and fun while suiting children with different learning styles. The Homeschool Program components can be purchased separately. However, it probably makes the most sense to purchase the complete Homeschool Program even if you are teaching pre-readers, and, as your child grows, gradually introduce components that involve reading and writing.
Note: Risas Y Sonrisas has a YouTube channel spanishforkids with some videos you can watch for free. You will get an idea of the quality of the program from them, and these videos are great vocabulary-building tools even if you don't use this particular program.