Putting the New GSL to work in the classroom

dictionary entry - language_v_mediumThe General Service List has been around since 1953, when researcher Michael West used a 2.5 million corpus to identify the 2000 most important, high-frequency word families English learners needed to know. The GSL has been an indispensable tool for teachers in helping them know which words deserve more time in the classroom.

Fast forward to 2013, when a New General Service List (NGSL) appeared. Compared to the original GSL, the NGSL is based on a much larger corpus of 273 million words, contains roughly 370 more headwords, and increases coverage to 90% of all words in general English texts.  

The developers of the NGSL have provided a comprehensive website with the new list, and a page with links to activities which help students learn and practice the NGSL. (There’s even an app!) Their activities at Quizlet.com break the NGSL into 100-word sets, using everything from flashcards to matching games to help students practice individual words.

To take things one step further, I make my own Quizlet activities which practice sets of collocations with NGSL words. One benefit to creating your own sets is being able to provide a richer context for the words. For example, I have used the “Scatter” game to have students match meanings to collocations we covered in class around the theme of “visiting someone’s home.” Five of the collocations I targeted included get to know, accept an invitation, be respectful, feel welcome, and look for something in common.

Quizlet_finalScatter and the other activities can also give students practice with pairing words and phrases together. The screenshot below, for example, shows how “Learn” can be used to help students recognize and form collocations.

Screenshot 2014-08-31 23.46.15

Quizlet is a simple and fun tool to use to with the NGSL and other high-frequency word lists.   Another bonus? It’s free!


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