Risas y Sonrisas is an incredible program designed to teach Spanish to elementary-aged children. Leticia Smith created the program when she discovered a need for fun, comprehensive materials to help her teach Spanish in the classroom. Smith has done an amazing job putting together a multimedia package that is sure to help your children learn to speak and read Spanish.
Components for this program can be purchased separately or within a kit. I am reviewing the Individual Self-Study Program, which is designed specifically for homeschoolers. This kit includes a Student Book with a CD-ROM and Skits DVD, a music CD, the Sign and Sing DVD, a cognate folder with a pronunciation CD, a flashcard set, 162 cognate picture cards, and an instruction manual. This kit is quite a deal at only $135. The program covers 12 major vocabulary units, including numbers, food, house, farm animals, and clothes. There are also smaller units on the seasons, days of the week, colors, and pronunciation.
The Instructor's Manual is more of a guide to help parents use the different parts of the program in a way that works for them. Because this program can be used with children in grades K-5, you have the ability to truly tailor the curriculum to suit your child. For example, with my daughter, who is almost 7, I am mainly using the Student Book with its accompanying CD-ROM. As she becomes more confident, we will pull out the DVD and learn some sign language to go along with the vocabulary she has learned. Down the road, we will be able to use the flashcards and games as reinforcement. Then, when she is working towards mastery, we can use the Skits DVD, which will help her learn how to speak Spanish in conversation. I love how easy it is to help your child progress through this program. My daughter enjoys looking at the Student Book, with its beautiful pictures and cute illustrations. The pictures really help her remember letter sounds and new words.
The Risas y Sonrisas program is so easy to teach. To teach a lesson, all you need is the Student Book, a computer, and the CD-ROM. You are prompted in the book when it is time to listen to a particular word, phrase, or song on the CD-ROM. The CD-ROM is so helpful because your child has the opportunity to hear all the words pronounced by Leticia. Cognates (words that have the same root in Spanish and English) are used throughout the book to give children an easy way to learn and practice their pronunciation skills. Students are also given examples of conversational questions and answers in Spanish, which makes for a fun activity to practice with family members and friends. Cultural tidbits and historical facts are intermingled in the text of the book.
Though this is an exceptional program, there are a few improvements that could be made. If you are looking for structured lesson plans, you won't find them here. It would be nice to have more details to help guide parents and teachers through the lessons, as opposed to the general instructions given in the manual. I also was not very fond of the music on the CD, but it does the job of teaching vocabulary, so it's not that big of an issue. It's just not a CD that I would just place in the car to listen to as we are driving.
In all, I have to say that the Risas y Sonrisas program is one of the best I have seen for teaching elementary children Spanish. It encompasses all the things that children love--music, bright colors, funny pictures, games, and just plain fun. I will continue to use this program to help my daughter with this new language and encourage other homeschool families to do the same.