Word frequency

What are the most frequently used words in English? And could we do without them?

Goals

Lesson Plan

The teacher explains that today, we will look at the most frequently used words in English. How do we know which words are used most frequently? The best way is to use a corpus, a sample of real language in use. For this lesson, we refer to the British National Corpus (BNC). Word frequency lists for the BNC can be found here.

First, ask students to make a list of what they think might be the 10 most frequently used words in English. Next, have them think about the kinds of words they’ve come up with in their lists. Ask the following questions:

The Activity page appears in the menu entitled 'This Unit' in the upper right corner of this page. The Activity page can be displayed on a projector or smart board, and it can also be printed and distributed. The first slide in the Activity page presents the 10 most commonly used words in English.

In the first task, students will need to pair up with someone else in the class and try to talk about a particular question. The catch is that they're not allowed to use any of the Top 10 words on the list. Every time they use a word, they tally a mark. Spend a few minutes on this task and see how many marks each student accumulates.

What happens if we look beyond the Top 10 words to the next ten most frequent words? What kind of words will we see? Slide 2 in the Activity page presents a follow-up activity with the 20 most frequently used English words. Ask the students the same questions as before, and then try another round of discussion, trying to avoid the top 20 words.

Additional work

Students can try identifying the top 10 or top 20 English words in any given text, underlining or crossing out the words as they find them.

Full Preview

This is a full preview of this page. You can view a page a day like this without registering.

But if you wish to use it in your classroom, please register your details on Englicious (for free) and then log in!

SKIP

Word frequency: Activity

The 10 most common English words are:

the

of

and

a

in

to

it

is/was

I

for

Can you answer the following questions without using these 10 words?

Do you think a school uniform is a good idea?

Eastenders or Coronation Street?

Who’s the most annoying member of your family?

Where would you like to be in ten years’ time?

Or, come up with a question of your own!

The 20 most common English words are:

the

of

and

a

in

to

it

is/was

I

for

that

you

he

be

with

on

by

at

have

are

Can you have a conversation about movies, websites, video games (or your own topic) without using these 20 words?

Full Preview

This is a full preview of this page. You can view a page a day like this without registering.

But if you wish to use it in your classroom, please register your details on Englicious (for free) and then log in!

SKIP