Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Reading Beyond Books to Build Vocabulary

Studies repeatedly show that the best way to build vocabulary is through exposure to new words, and the best way to find new words is to read. People who read a lot, especially if they choose texts that span topics and genres, will encounter new words more frequently. Paired with the context provided by sentences and paragraphs, new words are more likely to stick than they are if studied in isolation or accompanied only by a definition on a flashcard.

Students averse to reading may balk at the idea that reading is the best way to improve their vocabularies. However, reading novels is not the only way to expose their minds to new vocabulary. There are an abundance of valuable reading options available that go beyond chapter books. Newspapers, for example, are a great way to pick up new vocabulary. Most newspapers are written at a level accessible to students in middle and high school, and the variety of topics covered throughout the various sections mean that there will almost certainly be something to interest just about anyone in an issue. (It should be noted that engagement is critical; an unengaged reader is unlikely to maintain the level of focus needed for vocabulary acquisition, so students should read about topics that genuinely interest them.)

Magazines can also make for great, educational reading. Check out some of the following options for:

Upper Elementary and Middle School

High School

  • Teen Voices– substantive magazine for teenage girls
  • Cicada– literary magazine for middle and high school students
  • Teen Ink– online magazine containing fiction and non-fiction on a variety of topics
  • Upfront– news magazine for teenagers published by the New York Times
  • Time/Newsweek – written on a level most high school students can understand
  • – tips on money management, career options, college, etc.
  • NextStepU – college and career advice

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