January 23, 2022

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Vocabulary Challenge for English Learners: Write a Story Using Our Words of the Day

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Note: Winners of the November Vocabulary Challenge are announced at the bottom of this post.

When you hear the words jostle, replenish and debris, does a story come to mind?

We want to read 50-word stories in which students incorporate some of the Words of the Day we published in December. We will publish our favorite submissions as examples for the March challenge.

While English language learners are encouraged to enter all of our vocabulary challenges, the one this month is a special opportunity open only to middle and high school students who are emerging writers, readers and speakers of English.

Any student who is currently working toward English proficiency is eligible, including students in E.L.L. and E.S.L. classes or programs. Find more information about eligibility below, and email [email protected] if you have questions.

All other students are still eligible to enter our Vocabulary Video Challenge, which is open until Jan. 12, as well as any of our other monthly vocabulary challenges.

Start by getting familiar with the vocabulary words published in December. Next, create a 50-word piece of writing in which you use some of the vocabulary words. You can write a whole story around one word or include a few.

Submit your story by commenting on this post between now and Jan. 31. Here is what we are looking for:

  • It is most important that you use each vocabulary word correctly according to its definition.

  • We are looking for entries that demonstrate your understanding of the vocabulary word or words you choose.

  • We are looking for pieces of writing that are creative and original.

Your piece of writing should draw from the words below. Each one links to a Word of the Day post that includes the definition of the word and an example of how it has been used in The New York Times. To find more usage examples, consult the Vocabulary.com online dictionary.

tabula rasa

  • Your story must be 50 words or fewer and use at least one of the listed vocabulary words.

  • Identify your vocabulary words by writing them in ALL CAPS. (See the bottom of this post for examples.)

  • Submit your entry as a comment on this post by 11:59 p.m. Pacific time on Jan. 31.

  • It is acceptable to use a word in a different tense or to use the plural of a word that is listed in the singular.

  • Eligibility: Students in E.L.L., E.S.L., E.S.O.L., E.A.L. and E.F.L. classes or programs are eligible, as well as any student who is currently working toward English proficiency. Email [email protected] if you have questions.

  • Minimum Age Requirements: Middle and high school students ages 13 and older in the United States and Britain, and 16 and older elsewhere, can submit by commenting on this post. Teachers and parents can submit on behalf of students in middle or high school who do not meet these age requirements. If you are submitting on behalf of a student, please include the student’s name at the bottom of the comment.

  • Please submit only one story per student. You cannot edit your comment once it has been submitted.

Congratulations to the winners of our November challenge, who excelled at using each vocabulary word accurately according to its definition. In addition to the winners included below, we want to give honorable mentions to Sofía from Kuwait, who wrote a memorable homage to Freddie Mercury, and Nissan from Dallas, whose story was a thriller.

Lincoln Gonzalez, age 14, South Miami Middle Community School, South Miami, Fla.

A while back, at my ALMA MATER, I was in a heated debate with a friend of mine. It was over something stupid; I can’t remember VERBATIM. He was so FERVID about it; he almost exploded with passion. I finally ALLAYED the situation, and we apologized profusely. We’re still friends today!

Kate Rowberry, age 17, Granite Bay High School, Granite Bay, Calif.

MEANDERING through the vegetable aisle, I encountered my DOPPELGÄNGER looking at the bell peppers. To ALLAY the awkwardness, I HASTENED past her, but we INADVERTENTLY got in the same checkout line. My LUGUBRIOUS look-alike turned to me and said VERBATIM, “You look like my twin sister who passed away recently.”

Sarah Pierson, age 15, Hoggard High School, Wilmington, N.C.

My head was down as I MEANDERED through the streets. Bonk! I INADVERTENTLY ran into someone! I HASTENED my step. Don’t turn around, don’t turn around. I turned around. I was met with the FERVID glare of an old man. I cowered before running away, never turning back.

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