Using Cognates with English Learners at 5th Grade Level: Strategies for Teachers and Parents to Build Reading Comprehension in Science

ABSTRACT USING COGNATES WITH ENGLISH LEARNERS AT 5TH GRADE LEVEL: STRATEGIES FOR TEACHERS AND PARENTS TO BUILD READING COMPREHENSION IN SCIENCE by Oralia Robles Master of Arts in Education: Linguistically and Culturally Diverse Learners Option California State University, Chico Spring 2010 English Learners continue to be one of the lowest performing student subgroups on standardized tests in reading and math. Consequences brought forth from state and federal mandates, have resulted in educators focusing on English Learners’ limitations and overlooking their strengths. The literature reviewed, establishes the use of primary language and culture as an essential basis for acquiring a second language. It presents the progression of English language development stages, as well as the challenges of content reading, precursor skills required for enhancing comprehension and factors that impact reading assessment. Finally, it establishes the significance of vocabulary enrichment and how using cognate transfer is one of the many effective strategies that facilitate access to content area reading. The project, a Handbook of Strategies for Teachers and Parents to Build Reading Comprehension in Science, is a compilation of teacher created and adapted strategies based on author experience, research, and general principles drawn from prominent second language researchers. The strategies are designed to be implemented with fifth grade ELs whose native language is Spanish, during English Language Development time. The project goals are: (a) teacher implementation of cognate strategies that help scaffold vocabulary in science, (b) teacher awareness of the benefits that students’ first language bring into the classroom, (c) parent involvement in their child’s English learning (d) create awareness and train ELs to apply primary language through use of cognate skills to enhance academic language. An educational program that strives to meet these goals will enhance ELs’ opportunity for academic success.