17 Vocabulary Building Strategies

Reading strategies and vocabulary building strategies go hand-in-hand.  Developing your personal dictionary of words is important to understanding what you read and being able to use the words in your program and workplace.

Tips for building your vocabulary

  1. Read. The more you read, the more words you’re exposed to. Try reading about different topics and use different sources (e.g. newspapers, blogs, books, articles, etc.).
  2. Use a graphic organizer. A graphic organizer is helpful when you have a lot of new vocabulary to remember. Graphic organizers help you make connections between words.
  3. Use a vocabulary journal. Like a graphic organizer, writing down new words and how to use them correctly in a sentence can help with memory and understanding. Review your journal regularly to help remember the words and practice using them in conversation and writing.
  4. Use a dictionary. Using an online or paper English-English dictionary is helpful when you need to look up a word you don’t know. It will give you the parts of speech, definition, common uses, and pronunciation.
  5. Use a collocations dictionary. Understanding common word pairings in English can help you with your conversation and reading skills. For example, “I need to make the bed before I leave”. To make the bed is an English collocation. It’s incorrect to say “I need to create the bed before I leave.”
  6. Practice new words in conversation. You will learn and remember new words if you use them in conversation and writing. Challenge yourself to use new words with your classmates, family, and friends.

Try it!

Create a personal dictionary of new words you’ve recently read in one of your textbooks.

Extend Your Learning

NSCC’s Writing Centre Guide has more resources for you to explore on spelling and developing your vocabulary.

NSCC also has English as an Additional Language (EAL) Supports that can help you in listening, speaking (including pronunciation), reading, and employment readiness.


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