Risas vs Calico

Risas y Sonrisas vs. Calico Spanish

Risas y Sonrisa vs Calico Spanish

At Risas Y Sonrisas, we have always been committed to transparency, letting our program and materials speak for themselves rather than comparing ourselves directly to other companies. Every Spanish program has something different to offer, and while we strongly believe in Risas y Sonrisas, we understand that what works for one teacher might not always work for another.

Calico has recently compared their program to ours in a way we can only call completely misinformed. While we applaud their effort to give customers as much information as possible, we want to take this opportunity to clear up some of their misunderstandings about our program.

Materials & Cost

Calico claims that both programs are of similar length, but in fact you need to purchase two program levels from Calico at $1,179 and $1,199 ($2,278 total) to cover a fraction of the material that students cover in the Risas y Sonrisas School Program ($990) or the Homeschool Program ($175). We are well known for offering one of the most comprehensive, high quality, and affordable Spanish Programs for K-5.



Calico’s book package and some of their flashcards can be purchased on other sites as well, while all of our materials are exclusive to Risas y Sonrisas. We are a small company with a big interest in increasing Bilingual Education efforts in elementary schools. We are happy to pass all the savings from our low overhead on to our customers.

We’re also proud to show off our full range of exclusive materials on our website, whereas the picture above is all you can see comes with the full Calico Level 1 & 2 package. Calico shares some lesson samples, videos of their songs and stories, but no students in action. We invite you to witness shared videos made by teachers and parents with children using our program in action here.

Achievable Objectives

Instead of shying away from challenging our students, we harness their amazing and unique ability to learn a new language. Calico claims that our scope and sequence is unachievable and we agree if you don’t have the right tools to make it happen. We’ve been in business for over 19 years with the driving focus of developing great tools to help teachers achieve what they thought was unachievable.

We created a program that allows students (K- 2nd and 3rd-5th) to start with the basics: fun songs, simple vocabulary, pronunciation skills, and useful phrases. When students are ready, they’re introduced to more advanced skills such as reader’s theater and basic grammar concepts. As with all of our material, students learn these more advanced concepts with fun, colorful, hands-on activities.

Despite what Calico claims, Risas y Sonrisas does not focus on grammar exercises. Conversation skills and vocabulary are repeated across a wide variety of media and activities: songs, videos, posters, pictures, color-coded cards, games, skits, reader’s theater, online activities and worksheets. By constantly changing it up, we keep students having fun while still getting the repetition that’s key to learning a new language.

Our curriculum is flexible and lets instructors teach at the pace that best suits their classes. We’re always hearing great ideas from awesome teachers who are using our materials in new and creative ways.

Who’s it for?

Calico claims that both programs can be used with very young children. Although designed for elementary-aged kids, our materials can be used with students of all ages. Literate students can learn to read and count in Spanish as far as they can in English after completing Risas y Sonrisas Module 1 of 4. We regularly get orders from all levels: preschool, elementary, middle, and high school. Teachers love our posters, games, and conjugation cards. Even parents can quickly acquire vocabulary from our catchy songs, creative visual aids and extensive cognate vocabulary words that are similar in English and Spanish.

We present the same information in a variety of ways to keep students engaged and help them learn new material while retaining the knowledge they have already gained. Our goal is simple:

  1. Acquiring a large vocabulary pool
    • Original songs introduce vocabulary, while fun games keep students practicing and using the words in a fun environment. Students in action
  1. Practical Q&A
  • Students rehearse and recycle the vocabulary they’ve acquired while also practicing speaking in simple sentences and having actual conversations. Students in action
  1. Conversation
  • Students put the Q&A together in a skit, eventually acting the skit without having to use the book. Students in action

Providing students with a large pool of words to use in an array of meaningful conversations empowers them to communicate. For example, students can plug in a noun or a verb in the Q&A “What do you want? I want__.” and then expand with further questions.

Calico is a video and story-based curriculum. Videos and stories are great tools for language-learning: we use them too…plus much more! As we all know, students need repetition to really own the material, and we have the largest and most dynamic range of materials that keep students engaged and having fun while practicing their language skills.

Instructor’s Spanish Knowledge

It’s always ideal to have a Spanish instructor who speaks Spanish, but we know that’s not always possible.

Like most foreign language programs that use technology, Risas y Sonrisas includes audio, illustrations, and video that demonstrates the correct pronunciation of words and phrases. Any kind of instructor can use these tools to lead activities, sing songs, and play games right along with their students. Spanish is not necessary to lead students!

For one example, check out this review.

Grammar Concepts

Unlike Calico, we think it’s really important to give students a basic understanding of Spanish grammar concepts, and we’ve developed innovative ways to teach it! Rather having explicit lessons or units on grammar, we creatively embed basic concepts into our vocabulary units, giving our students a fuller and more complex grasp of Spanish.

Our memorable color-coded system for gendered nouns and adjectives makes it easy to internalize the basics of matching noun gender. We use this system consistently throughout all materials in our program so that students quickly learn to match the genders of adjectives and nouns.

We also developed a color-coded system for verb endings in the past, present, and future, and help students practice them with our engaging personal pronoun cards that let them build complete sentences in all three tenses. Students in action

Cultural Points

We offer a cultural point at the end of every chapter, and also include many suggestions for extra cultural education in the Teacher’s Manual. Further activities exist in abundance, and can be found on our social media profiles, as well as around the internet.

To Sum Up

Risas y Sonrisas takes a colorful and creative approach to teaching Spanish to children. Far from the stilted, grammar-obsessed, meaningless disconnected vocabulary based program portrayed by Calico, we offer a dynamic range of innovative materials and tools that keep children of all ages singing, dancing, playing, acting and acquiring real practical communication skills.

This is what has made thousands of schools and homeschools around the US, Canada, and Australia embrace Risas y Sonrisas–“Laughter and Smiles.” Over the last 19 years, we’ve grown almost entirely through word of mouth and online searches. Refunds are almost non-existent in our company which says a thing or two about our customer satisfaction!

We’re sorry that Calico so drastically misrepresented our program on their website, and hope that this clears up any confusion that may have resulted. Please don’t hesitate to contact us with any more questions or concerns you might have.

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    8650 Spicewood Springs #145-590
    Austin, TX 78759-4399
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