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Sonrisas Spanish Teaching Methodology

Below is a brief overview of some of the language learning methods that are woven into the Sonrisas Spanish curriculum as well as an explanation of the role of technology in our curriculum. Each method is explained in greater detail in the Teacher's Manual. These Spanish teaching methodologies are a large part of what make our program so effective.

Acquire, Develop, Learn®

Created by Sonrisas Spanish, the Acquire, Develop, Learn methodology provides students with a developmentally appropriate and comprehensive Spanish language education. It enables them to become effective Spanish communicators, globally literate citizens, and lifelong language learners.

The Role of Technology in Language Learning

ACTFL put out a position statement position statement in May of 2017 on the role of technology in language learning. It reaffirmed how we approach language learning and the design of our curriculum—especially for young learners. The sole use of tech for language instruction is not appropriate. Language instruction is best guided by a teacher using effective curriculum, and that’s the opportunity our curriculum provides. We acknowledge that tech can have role that supports language learners—especially in today’s tech-intensive environment. That is why we have partnered with Rockalingua to offer an online resource that enables students to:

  • Use their devices to supplement the Sonrisas Spanish lessons.
  • Listen to and view authentic music videos.
  • Work at their own pace and practice discrete skills with engaging online content.
  • Benefit from differentiated instruction.

Total Physical Response-TPR

Developed by Dr. James J. Asher, TPR models the way children learn their first language. TPR works by placing the language in a physical context that allows for comprehension without translation. Done effectively, with lots of repetition, TPR develops comprehension and verbal skills. It is appropriate for young learners as it is very kinesthetic. TPR also helps teachers achieve a recommended goal of using Spanish at least 90% of the time when teaching. The Sonrisas curriculum incorporates TPR into the songs, games, and activities for each lesson.

The Natural Approach

Developed by Dr. Stephen Krashen and Spanish teacher Tracy Terrell, the Natural Approach supports the idea that children learn language only through acquisition as opposed to learning. Learning requires a focus on form, i.e., on grammar while acquisition requires a focus on meaning. Meaning is achieved by giving learners lots of comprehensible input. When students are exposed to this input in fun and practical contexts, acquisition is inevitable. In the Sonrisas Spanish Curriculum teachers use movement and gesture, repetition, everyday objects, and illustration to give students lots of comprehensible input in fun and practical contexts throughout the songs, games, activities, literature, and art projects. Students acquire Spanish naturally and easily, and this allows for a lesson that requires little or no translation further reinforcing the goal that teachers use Spanish at least 90% of the time.

The Waldorf Foreign Language Approach

Used consistently and with great success since its inception in the 1920s, the Waldorf approach is based on the idea that the primary purpose of foreign language acquisition is to develop the ability to communicate. A big part of this development is raising one’s social conscience by cultivating an interest in and a respect for other cultures. Indeed, through acquiring foreign languages, we nurture a cultural understanding of other peoples. When children are exposed to another language, they are building much more than linguistic ability. Their minds are opening to a very different way of thinking about and seeing the world. The thematic content of the Sonrisas lessons and the activities used have been chosen with a eye towards this openness.

Reading Children's Spanish Literature

Reading children’s Spanish literature is a critical aspect of the Sonrisas methodology. A prerequisite for an effective Spanish lesson is the opportunity for students to connect with the content of the lesson. Children love books, and a great book creates an immediate connection for them. We have taken a lot of time to find quality children’s books to use in our lessons. The literature included in our storybook sets is authentic children’s Spanish literature, not basal readers, so students have the opportunity to engage with the content of the lesson through an authentic Spanish experience.

Using the Theory of Multiple Intelligences

In the 1980s, Harvard psychologist Howard Gardner developed the theory of multiple intelligences. Gardner broadened the traditional definition of intelligence to encompass nine distinct areas of intelligence such as kinesthetic intelligence and interpersonal intelligence. The theory of multiple intelligences has been a useful tool for educators; giving a clearer picture of students’ strengths and weaknesses. The Sonrisas lessons use a diversity of activities to target the multiple intelligences and ensure that each student is engaged with the concepts and vocabulary in the lesson at one time or another. Through this design, the Sonrisas curriculum helps set up each child for success.

Consistent Routine and Structure

Every lesson in the Sonrisas Curriculum has the same structure—Circle Time, Story Time, and Art Time. Children thrive when they have routine and structure. Language acquisition increases when children are able to take risks and experiment with language—and that happens when they are in a safe and comfortable environment. The Sonrisas Curriculum creates this by providing a consistent routine and structure. Students can predict what is going to happen next, and they know what is expected of them.

Read More in the Sonrisas Blog

There is a wealth of valuable information in the Sonrisas Blog. Topics include Sonrisas Curriculum Methodologies, Foreign Language Learning Advocacy, and Teaching Preschool and Elementary Spanish.


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