Cognates are really helpful to adult language learners but their usefulness often eludes our school-age students. They just don't see them! One of my theories is that these young learners are still new to reading itself. Because of this, their ability to scan a text is still very limited. Their eyes are still learning to visually capture more than one or two words at a time.
My other theory is that we as teachers just don't make a big enough deal about them. Think of all of the other things that our students aren't cognizant of before they come to our classrooms. Yet, because we make such a big deal about capital letters and punctuation and important letters or words, they begin to see them in everything they read or write.
This cognates chart is from a first grade classroom in Mesquite ISD where the teacher decided to be intentional about helping her students pay attention to cognates. Notice how the teacher underlined the similarities between the English and Spanish spelling. She told me that this had made a significant difference in her students own writing and reading as they are really beginning to understand how Spanish and English can support one another. As their reading ability increases, these first graders are going to be so well prepared to use their understanding of one language to aid in their understanding of the other. These guys are truly going to be college-ready!