Use Cognates to Build Student Confidence

Why are cognates so important? 

Like mine, your students are probably a majority of students that have never had Spanish before. I’ve had questions like, “why do I have to learn Spanish” and “Is this class going to be hard?”. I’ll probably continue to get them but I’ve made the choice to make sure they’re feeling confident about what they know. 

Activities focused on cognates are essential those first few days of Spanish class. Making students aware of the similarities and differences of Spanish cognates can make a huge difference in how the student approaches and perceives their language learning experience will be.

The use of cognates is very useful for novice learners. Fun fact! 30-40% of English words have a word that is similar to meaning and spelling in Spanish.

How do I introduce cognates to students?

My first lesson of Spanish 1 is about cognates and how to use them to your advantage. I use a variety of activities the first day (90 min classes) to get my students comfortable with reading in Spanish. I want to tell you a little more about my favorite of many activities that I use in class during the first few days to build my students confidence.

Remember, if you learned Spanish as a non-native learner then you know it can all be intimidating. Not knowing what someone is saying to you.

Ok. So puzzles take a little bit of prep time but once you've cut the pieces and laminate it is GREAT! You can use them for different class periods.

Puzzle activities are designed to get you thinking. I love watching my students think through all of the things they've learned to finish puzzles.  I use puzzles with images and Spanish and English vocabulary to help students think more about the similarities.

Task cards
I love this activity because it gets students up and moving. This is AMAZING for longer classes when students get a little antsy. It’s also a great option for shorter classes. I post the cards around the room for easy access. All my students move around to see the different cards and try to understand.

This activity focuses on reading comprehension. Students are reading full sentences and make connections with the images for the stories. Even though there are full sentences, the students are beginning to realize that they can read in Spanish. And guess's day 2 of Spanish Class!!! Their confidence should be soaring because they've accomplished reading in another language after such a short period of time.

Of the three activities, I'd have to say that this is a favorite. I love to play it. Well, I love to watch my students play. The Matamoscas game is a class favorite. Students get to practice their listening skills while making visual connections to the vocabulary. It’s a race to find the word you hear before your opponent. Students get really excited and are actively engaged in the game.


One pencil. Two papers. One winner. I usually save this activity for last to end class with a bang. The kids go crazy (especially if they haven't played it before). If you haven't use it in your classroom...well, what are you waiting for? ¡SEIS! is a great way to get your students engaged. Anything where students get to race is fun for them. The use of dice in the game adds an extra WOW element to keep them excited about the learning that's taking place.

Check out the post I wrote about how to play ¡SEIS! in Spanish Class. The race to identify vocabulary, reading, and write in Spanish will not disappoint.

...and last but not least! 

Exit slips are a go-to of mine for assessing my students. They help me guide my instruction and give me more information about what my students need. This quick assessment is great to use your within the first couple days of Spanish class and it’s a FREEBIE.  

The variety of activities for cognates are limitless. Try out any of these activities with your students to help build their confidence with their new learning experience. 

What cognates activities do you use in your classes? Have you ever started with a union cognates for your students? 

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