Spanish-Speaking ELL Study

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In research done by by Kelley and Kohnert (2012), 8-13 year-old Spanish-speaking ELL students were tested on their recognition and production of English vocabulary to provide evidence of a cognate advantage for Spanish-speakers. The study tested 30 typically developing children who spoke Spanish at home and English at school. The researchers used two vocabulary measures in the study. The first, PPVT III, measured students’ recognition of spoken vocabulary words (their receptive vocabulary) by asking students to choose one of four pictures that corresponded to a spoken vocabulary word. The second, EOWPVT, measured their production of a vocabulary word from a given picture (their expressive vocabulary). Spanish/English translations of each vocabulary…show more content…
Questions were ranked as easy, medium, and hard based on the order in which they were administered (both the tests that were used order questions by difficulty) and adjusted this by how many questions individual participants ended up answering (these tests had ceilings, so after a certain number of wrong answers in a row, the test would terminate). Researchers found that all levels of difficulty showed more correct answers for cognates, but that the medium and hard words showed the largest cognate advantage. This supports that there is a cognate advantage for Spanish-speaking ELL students and that it can be particularly useful with more difficult English vocabulary questions. However, only 60% of students on the PPVT III and 83% on the EOWPVT exhibited this advantage, indicating that it does not appear uniformly in all Spanish-speaking ELL…show more content…
This limits the researchers’ ability to look at the gap between ELL and non-ELL vocabulary and the role cognates can play in closing it. The use of the PPVT III, which has been shown in another report by Mott Baker, Ball, Keck and Lenhart (1995) to produce lower scores in Hispanic children than in non-Hispanic white children, I believe would complicate this, as results could not easily be compared reliably due to the racial and ethnic performance gap. Kelly and Kohnert do not acknowledge this limitation in their study because when comparing among Hispanic students, it does not create a gap. However, should this test be used to compare with a non-Hispanic control group, it could result in flawed findings. Despite this comparative limitation, the study is well controlled and accounts for many variables. The ranking of the questions on difficulty, as well as a concrete method of identifying cognates by their sound provided for an interesting and reliable data analysis. The authors claimed the students in their study had received no explicit cognate instruction, however did not provide any basis for how they could have known this, as the students could have received this type of instruction in previous grades before this study took place. This is an extremely important factor in discussing the cognate advantage and the authors should

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