Build Vocabulary by Reading an Article a Day

Read Daily - Teaching Tip

I love when I get great teaching ideas from whatever is I am reading in my spare time. This one comes courtesy of Alan Gelb from his book, The Seven Steps to Confident Writing.

I think I will make this a daily homework assignment next year. I very rarely assign homework. I think that if students use their time wisely in class, there is no need to bring work home. However, I do expect them to read for pleasure in their spare time. This expectation doesn’t always translate into habit. Perhaps this will help.

Start a Word Collection

“It is a good and worthwhile thing to work at developing your vocabulary, and that work goes even better if you can integrate it into your life rather than approaching it as a hardship to avoid. You can do that in a variety of ways. Chief among them is word collection.

Think of yourself as a collector. Just as you would collect seashells or stamps or coins, so can you collect words. Get into a serious reading habit with one or two sources that give you pleasure, whether it’s the Wall Street Journal or Rolling Stone or Scientific American.”

Read Daily

“Read an article or two a day. (Yes, you have time for that. Don’t tell me otherwise. Circle a few words that are new to you. Look them up in whatever dictionary, online or hardcopy, you like to use. Write those one or two daily words down in your log, which you can keep on your phone, in a notebook, or whatever it best suits you. You will see you vocabulary start to build quickly that way.”

Use a Dictionary

“You should also get into the habit of using a dictionary. Too often, we fall into the lazy habit of not looking up words.”

Invaluable Tools

Best of all is to read. And read. And read. In every respect, we learn invaluable lessons about writing and reading. Certainly, in the case of word acquisition, there is nothing like it. And with a vigorous program of word acquisition, you will have another tool by which you can control the tone of your writing.”


So, here is my homework assignment based on Gelb’s ideas. Read two articles or pieces of text every single day. These can be from any source that you already read (comic books, magazines, blogs, websites, etc). Or you can use Press Reader for free via the public library and find magazines that interest you. Start collecting words and be prepared to show me your collection in your daily speech, your notebook, and your writing.