Six wildly popular lists in English Language Teaching

list2Yes, by this time you’ve figured out that this site is all about lists. However, I’m far from the first or last person to be interested in lists. And there are quite a few lists in English Language Teaching (not as many as there are acronyms but still…). Here are six “wildly popular” lists, that you just can’t afford to ignore 🙂

1. Irregular verb list – the daddy of all lists. This is the list of choice to fill the last page of a coursebook, put on a classroom wall, go on a school promotional bookmark etc. etc. It’s also the list that no student can escape. I have long sought a secret “way” to teach this list to students without them having to memorise it. Can’t find one though.

2. Multiple Intelligence list – The idea that there are seven, or eight (or more, this list keeps getting longer) “intelligences” was proposed by Howard Gardner over twenty years ago but it still keeps popping up at conferences as if it’s the newest thing. The original seven “intelligences” proposed were (I believe) logical-mathematical, bodily-kinaesthetic, musical, visual/spatial, linguistic. interpersonal and intrapersonal. This list tends to be very popular with teachers looking to change their teaching style.

3. Krashen 5 Hypotheses – a theoretical list, these are the five hypotheses proposed by Stephen Krashen in the early 1980s on how people acquire a second language. They are: the natural order hypothesis, the acquisition/learning hypothesis, the monitor hypothesis, the input (or input +1) hypothesis and the affective filter hypothesis. I don’t have space to explain them, but Vivian Cook has a nice resume here. These hypotheses have been contested, but the list remains popular especially on MA and Diploma courses.

4. Eight word classes – This is a language list, the main classes that a word can fall into. They are noun, verb, adjective, adverb, preposition, determiner, conjunction and pronoun. The sad truth is that many language teachers (native English novice teachers especially) would be a bit hard pressed to identify whether or not a word belongs to one class or another.

5. Common European Framework of levels – A1, A2 etc. This list has become the bane of many large institutions as they switch their system of classes, levels and exams to attempt to reflect the descriptors and levels outlined in the Common European Framework. For those wishing a cure for insomnia, you can read the whole list here.

6. Frequency Lists.  Since the arrival of large corpora, the idea of frequency of words, longer lexical items or grammatical items has gained more and more importance. It’s used in dictionaries and grammar books and to a lesser extent in coursebooks. The top six keywords, according to one source, are the, of, and, to, a, in. I personally think this kind of list is more useful for those who make teaching and reference materials than teachers in their day-to-day work but I may be wrong. This list, and its implications,  is popular at conferences.

Are there any lists you would add?

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Published in: on December 22, 2008 at 12:29 pm  Comments (7)  
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  1. What a fantastic idea!
    I’ve never realized that we carry so many lists with us. I have to admit I carry the irregular verbs list, multiple intelligences and the frequency one, too.
    Anyway, apart from those you’ve mentioned I also carry a list of “the most common mistakes my students make”. That helps me to address their problems and show them how to correct their own mistakes. However, this list is getting bigger and bigger everyday. Sooner or later I won’t be able to carry it with me! 🙂

    • Excellent idea to carry around a list of the most common mistakes! I have that list somewhere in one of my past notebooks. Perfect for creating test items and developing one’s own awareness of the kind of mistakes our learners make!

  2. Great list of word classes, Lindsay – but you seem to have missed out the most important one: verbs! Odd, given that most coursebook syllabuses are verb-obsessed. Perhaps you’d had one too many mixed-conditional cocktails!

    • Yikes, how humiliating! Such is the cut-and-thrust world of the blogger (and ahem the author without his editor too). Anyway, another advantage of blogs is that I can change things! Verb has now made it on the Eight Word Classes list and none the wiser, except those who scroll down to read the comments. Oh well, we live and learn.

  3. Hello Lindsay,
    In the above post you mention that you “have long sought a secret ‘way’ to teach this list [irregular verbs] to students without them having to memorise it. Can’t find one though.”
    We have worked for many years on a way to make the teaching and study of irregular verbs more engaging. Although for beginners a certain amount of memorising is unavoidable, our experience shows that for intermediate and upwards, the method we use really improves the student’s ability to retain the verb and use it with confidence. Our positive experience has led us to create http://www.Ring-Rang-Rung.com, which is entirely free to use. Hope you find it useful and we’d love to receive your feedback.
    Kind regards.

    • Hi there! Thanks for the comment, I will certainly check out your site: sounds like a great idea!

  4. […] Six wildly popular lists in English language teaching. The list of lists. How many can you […]


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