How many of your Spanish students walk into class on their first day feeling nervous? You greet them cheerfully with an, “Hola” or “Buenos días”, but that doesn’t seem to put them at ease. How do you give your novice students confidence that they’ll be successful in your classroom right from the start? Cognates. Model cognates for them, teach them how to use them as a reading and listening strategy, and they’ll be amazed at how much they can do right from the start!
How do you introduce cognates to your students in a fun and engaging way? Check out these easy ideas to welcome your novice students!
Why are cognates important?
Cognates are an important tool to help your students be successful in their language learning journey! As they read, they can begin to make connections between the language(s) they know and the one they are learning.
For your novices, this can help them to realize that looking at some text in Spanish, or listening to Spanish isn’t just words they don’t know! As they get better at cognates, it helps them to break down the input they are hearing and help make it more comprehensible.
Give your Novice Students Confidence from Day 1
I love using cognates on the first day of school! Instead of talking about the syllabus for the first period, I use a strategy from Ben Slavic called Circling with Balls. This strategy involves spending 90% of your time in the target language, but using a ton of cognates to support your novices. Try it, and you’ll be amazed at how confident they feel after just one day! Click here to read more about my first day plans for Spanish novices.
After that first day, students “get” the concept of cognates and are ready for more! At this point, I like to start with my mini unit on cognates to introduce, practice, then assess their understanding of using cognates as a language comprehension tool.
Give Novice Students Confidence with Reading
On the first day of our cognate unit, I take the time to explain to my students just what a cognate is. I ask them to identify cognates, we do some short readings together, and finally, we do a choral translation exercise. It’s just their second day of Spanish and they can read and understand a whole paragraph! Their confidence goes through the roof!
The following day, we do a ¡Corre en Círculos! activity just focusing on cognates. This is a great way to introduce one of my all time favorite activities and increase their confidence with their reading skills. Click here to take a look at my Spanish Cognates ¡Corre en Círculos! Activity for yourself!
Give Novice Students Confidence with Listening
After we’ve been doing reading with cognates for a few days, it’s time to do some dedicated listening practice. Of course they’ve heard me using cognates out loud in class as a whole group, but now it’s time to give them some individual practice.
In this activity, I reuse listening files, but students are asked to do different tasks with the listening. This is purposeful, as the tasks students are asked to complete get slightly more difficult as they progress through the activities. Using the same content allows them to focus on meaning, and grow in confidence as they realize how much they understand when they use cognates as a comprehension tool.
Using Reading and Listening Skills to Play Games
Another great way to reinforce cognates as a skill is to play games! I have a Quizlet set I use to play Quizlet Live or its variations, game boards for Partner Matamoscas, and cards to play Memory! I like each of these games for different reasons, but they’re all great!
Partner Matamoscas is a great way to include reading and listening skills all in one as students hear you call a word or phrase, then read the word or phrase to slap it. Memory is excellent for reading without the pressure to hurry that Partner Matamoscas has. These memory cards are also focused on sentences to help them with context clues while they’re using cognates for comprehension. I like that it reinforces two strategies in one!
Assessing Their Understanding
The final piece of my mini unit on cognates is a short quiz! I know my goal for the unit is that students know how to use cognates to improve their understanding, so that’s what I focus on in my assessment. Students explain what a cognate is, demonstrate how they can use them, and finally explain how using cognates can be useful. It’s very simple and easy to use as a first assessment of the year! Click here to see my cognates quiz in my store.
Get a Complete Unit on Cognates to Give your Novice Students Confidence!
This unit bundle is everything you need to spend five full class days on cognates! It includes:
- Teacher’s Guide and Notes for the individual activities
- Presentation for use in Google Slides or PowerPoint to guide your students through the activities and lessons
- Two different readings and activities to introduce your students to cognates.
- Listening activities practice a range of different skills, from recognition to comprehension!
- A ¡Corre en Círculos! activity to have some fun movement-based practice with a variety of cognates.
- Games to engage your students in a variety of ways while applying their understanding!
- Use word search pages as homework, an after test activity, for fast finishers, as sub plans, or with some of my other seasonal activities to complete your lesson!
- A quick quiz that’s perfect to assess your students’ understanding and application of cognates in their language learning.