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Bilingual word detectives : transferability of word decoding skills for Spanish/ English bilingual students


Students who come into elementary schools in the U.S. with Spanish as their primary language arrive with a storehouse of information that can facilitate the acquisition of English. Because of the similarities in orthography and meaning of Spanish and English words of common Latinate origins and because these words are often high level academic words, there should be an attempt to use Spanish as a well-spring to provide access to meaning of words in English. Teachers should give Spanish/English bilingual students skills to use their primary language to make meaning of words in both languages. I implemented Bilingual Word Detectives in a 2nd grade bilingual classroom and sought to give students tools to use when decoding word meaning in Spanish and English. I focus on three word decoding activities. First, in the Prefix Detective activity, students searched and analyzed prefixes with the same orthography and meaning in Spanish and English. Second, in the Cognate Hound activity students looked for words with the same meaning and similar spelling, cognates, in Spanish and English. Finally, through Vocabulary Mapping students assessed their awareness of the common roots and meanings of words. These activities had three goals: 1) improve word decoding skills in Spanish and English, 2) create a community of learners within the classroom and 3) lower students' affective filters while learning words in English and Spanish. The data indicated that students were very enthusiastic about the activities and showed academic growth but a longitudinal study may be required to show growth in these skills

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