Saturday, January 14, 2012

Becoming Cognizant about Cognates

If you've read any book or attended any training on Second Language Acquisition, you've heard about the importance of cognates.  You are also aware of the blank stares you are likely to receive if you were to ask students what these words have in common:  científico, scientist. 

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!


  1. LOVE IT!!! Hi, I am a dual-language teacher in TX.! I just found your blog. It's exciting to see other blogs about dual language and just to have the oportunity to share resources and ideas! I just started my blog last weekend.

    I hope you come and check out my blog and start following :)

    1. Jessica, thanks so much for the visit! Your blog looks fantastic! I am going to have to pin some of your thinking maps because I know that a lot of the schools I work with are doing thinking maps as well. I also love how you have written "L1 student writing in L2". Isn't it so fun to see their progress? And, for anyone who may read your comment above, I think your address should be listed as: Thanks again!


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