Cognate practice – Part 1


It’s so important to teach (or remind) students about cognates during the first weeks of a language class. The meaning of these words seem obvious to us (since we have been exposed to the language for a significant amount of time), but recognizing cognates is a skill that can be improved on with practice.

I introduce cognates as simple as this: words that sound or look alike in different languages (coming from the same origin). I usually start by reading a short paragraph from a Hispanic newspaper or magazine. When my students hear a cognate they snap their fingers two times. It is a little quiet at first, but then they start recognizing more and more words.

Next, every student gets a Spanish language magazine (or handout, computer, or iPad) and 5 slips of paper. Their job is to find 5 cognates and write each one on a slip of paper. Then they get up and post it under it’s first letter on the back wall.


By the next day, you’ll have hundreds of cognates on your wall and you can send students on a walk around the room. Have them count how many words they can recognize. This is powerful! My level 1 newbies will count up to 50 words they know. Instead of leaving class feeling frustrated or defeated the first few days, they walk out the door energized and confident that they are learning!

P.S. if you’re looking for a great way to fill up a boring wall, leave these words up as big cognate dictionary! Students can add new words when they learn them.

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29 thoughts on “Cognate practice – Part 1

  1. After 16 years, I need a renewal. I am sooooooo glad I found this blog via Love this cognate idea! You ladies are muy creativas!

  2. What a great idea!!! I am just loving your posts! And the design of the site, very eye-catching and easy to read! I usually do focus on cognates also in the few weeks but this is a much better approach! Thanks again.

  3. love this! may have to steal, um borrow, this idea! :) my students love cognates too, but we have to be careful of those tricky false cognates!

    • I meant to add that each new chapter when they get their vocabulary list, I play a cognate game. Whoever can find the most cognates in a specified amount of time wins! Then we look at our list and they are excited to see that about 1/3 – 1/2 of the list they won’t have to work too hard at memorizing! :)

  4. Great idea! I am stealing it too. I wanted to put up students’ work before Back to School Night and this might be part of it. I might tell them to illustrate the cognate on the post-it before putting it up. Gracias!

  5. Yup, I’ve used an alphabet-board-topper on a bulletin board to create a “Cognate Word Wall” and this year have it up on another wall. I use sentence strip post it notes to put the word underneath the letter.

    • I always got a bulletin board in the hallway for my classes. We would go in the hallway whenever I wanted to use it (or have them redo it).

  6. Hey anonymous – on a cart…could you put letters in plastic page protectors and let students write on the page protectors with dry erase markers? you could post them on lockers in the hallway with magnets and do this activity in the hall or you could put them in a 3 ring binder and and just focus on a few letters at a time…not ideal – but perhaps better than nothing.

  7. Well, I don’t even have a classroom or a cart to hang anything on. So, I am going to use the graffiti paper idea and just incorporate Cognates into it as another section.

    I have a roll of brown painters paper from Home Depot (cheaper than the Staples, Craft or Teacher Stores) and I am going to make sections for questions/answers. I will roll it up and take it with me and then unroll it each class.

    It will be interesting to see how much of the roll we use during the year!

    • When I was a cart teacher, I asked for a bulletin board in the hallway. Then we would visit it when needed. I had another wall that we used a lot for hanging pictures and playing games.

  8. What a great idea! I teach elementary school Spanish and this is the first year all of the students are being exposed to language. I have taught cognates to the 4th and 5th graders, do you think they could manage this and feel confident?

  9. Hi there! Loving your blog :) Was wondering if you had any articles you could share that you’ve used with your level one Spanish kiddos? I’m at a loss and have nothing in my repertoire ;) MUCH thanks in advance!

  10. Love this! What do you use to make these posters? Word? Powerpoint? I find I love so many of your ideas, but don’t have the tech savy to recreate them! Thank you!!!

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