August 2, 2021

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Learn Vocabulary All Year With The New York Times

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Note: This calendar is available as a printable PDF.

Every school day since 2009, The Learning Network has helped students learn a new vocabulary word. Last year, however, students showed us they were eager to do more than just understand definitions. During our inaugural Vocabulary Challenges, they transformed each month’s words into clever stories, poems and songs.

Now, thanks to their enthusiasm, we’re announcing a full calendar of opportunities to do even more. Below is a schedule of challenges that can help students engage with words through writing, drawing and video-making, and connect their language study to what they read in the newspaper and observe in their own lives.

These challenges are open to middle and high school students anywhere in the world. As each challenge goes live, we will add a link with more detailed instructions for sharing your work with us — and as each one ends we will recognize our favorite student submissions on our site.

In addition to our monthly Vocabulary Challenges, we offer a slate of monthly contests — including ones for narrative writing, argument writing and podcasting — for middle and high school students. Visit our 2021-22 Contest Calendar to learn more.

If you have any questions, please post a comment here, or write to us at [email protected]


Sept. 1-30, 2021

Students will identify a word from a New York Times article that they are unfamiliar with, but would like to know more about or incorporate into their own vocabularies. Then, with the help of the Vocabulary.com online dictionary, they will tell us why that word intrigues them and what they have learned about its definition.


Oct. 1-31, 2021

Write a sentence using two of the Words of the Day from September. The best sentences will put the two vocabulary words in conversation with each other and clearly illustrate both of their meanings. Winners will be published at the bottom of the challenge post.

This is intended to help students build up to our longer story-writing challenges, which will run in November, January, March and May.

Nov. 1-30, 2021

In the first of our story-writing challenges, students are invited to write a 50-word story, poem or song using at least four of the past month’s Words of the Day. Winning stories will be published as examples for the January challenge. Students interested in submitting are encouraged to read winning entries from last year.

This challenge will also run in January, March and May.


Dec. 1, 2021-Jan. 12, 2022

For our annual Vocabulary Video Contest, we invite students to produce a 15-second video about the meaning of one of our Words of the Day. Here are last year’s rules and guidelines, and here are the 2020-21 finalists. (We will publish all finalists in a separate post, as we have done since 2014.)


Jan. 1-31, 2022

In the second of our story-writing challenges, students are invited to write a 50-word story, poem or song using at least four of the past month’s Words of the Day. Winning stories will be published as examples for the March challenge. Students interested in submitting are encouraged to read winning entries from last year.


Feb. 1-28, 2022

What word does not exist in the English language, but should? Invent a new word and tell us its definition, its part of speech and why we need it. The winning word will be published as our Word of the Day on April Fools’ Day.


March 1-31, 2022

Students are invited to write a 50-word story, poem or song using at least four of the past month’s Words of the Day. Winners will be published as example stories for the May challenge. Students interested in submitting are encouraged to read winning entries from last year.


April 1-29, 2022

Create a one-page field guide that illustrates and deeply explores the meaning and usage of one of our Words of the Day from the 2021-22 school year. Based on a forthcoming Reader Idea from the writer and English teacher Rebekah O’Dell, this activity will prompt students to create a visual documentation of what they discover about the word they choose.

Some outstanding examples will be published in a separate post.


MAY 1-31, 2022

Students are invited to write a 50-word story, poem or song using at least four of the past month’s Words of the Day. Winners will be published at the bottom of the post. Students interested in submitting are encouraged to read winning entries from last year.


  • All challenges are open to middle and high school students ages 13 and older in the United States and Britain, and 16 and older elsewhere. Teachers and parents can submit on behalf of students in middle or high school who do not meet these age requirements. Each challenge post will contain instructions for how to submit on a younger student’s behalf.

  • On the day each challenge begins, we will add a link on this page to the contest announcement so students and teachers can submit entries.

  • Students may participate in as many challenges as they like, but should submit only one entry per challenge.

    Want to make sure you don’t miss a vocabulary challenge? Sign up for our free weekly newsletter or follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

    We can’t wait to see what students create this school year!


All of our Words of the Day are provided by Vocabulary.com. Learn more and see usage examples across a range of subjects in the Vocabulary.com Dictionary.

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