What is the NGSL?


First off, what are high-frequency words?


A high-frequency word is a word that children and adults will come across “most frequently” in reading or speaking.


It is one of many common words that make up the majority of English.


Let’s put it all into context.


Depending on what your definition of a word is, the English language is made up of 1,000,00 words. (Stanford Research Group)


Or 350,000 in the Oxford English dictionary, but this doesn’t include words with distinct meaning which raises that number significantly.


According to Nation and Waring (1997), a university educated native speaker knows about 20,000 words.


Now THAT is a pretty daunting mission to throw at a beginner level student.


Okay class… you need to learn 20,000 words. Here’s the list…


Let’s see…


365 days in a year x 5 words per day …






For more than 10 years …


= STILL one year away from knowing 20,000!!!


That would almost bring a non-native speaker up to par with a university educated native speaker’s vocabulary level.


Learning 5 words per day for 11 years. WOW!


How many words should my students know?


The cool thing is that students DON’T need to know all of those words to understand everyday English.


According to Robert Hillerich, “just 3 words, I, and, the account for nearly ten percent of all words printed in English”


According to Paul Nation with 2000 words, we can understand about 90% of general English.1


According to Dr. Charles Browne, with 2800 words, you can understand 92% of general English.


Also, according to Dr. Browne, we can actually understand about 90% of spoken English with just 721 words.2


By “general English” I mean,


–  Newspapers

–  TV shows

–  Magazine articles

–  Everyday conversations


Now when browsing our lists, you will notice that some of your favorite words (think food) are not included in the high frequency lists.


This is because they are not all that useful when it comes to general English (proper nouns that is). This isn’t to say you shouldn’t teach them or encourage your students to learn them.


Simply put… you should.


You should encourage them to expand upon the lists with what they are interested in, like, prefer and are passionate about.


And fear not … though not included in the NGSL lists they are included in our flashcard library.


To learn English faster and more efficiently, students should focus on memorizing the most common vocabulary first. Learning words such as elephant, sports jacket and… are often the go to for English teachers, but not always the right choice.


Learning vocabulary by simply memorizing the definition is an ineffective way to learn words. Reading, listening and speaking will help students to use vocabulary in the right situations. That’s often where rote learning leads them astray.


Knowing a word is one thing.


Using it correctly and most importantly remembering it, is another.


1. David Hirsh and Paul Nation, What Vocabulary Size is Needed to Read Unsimplified Texts for Pleasure?, Reading in a Foreign Language, 8(2), 1992

2. http://www.newgeneralservicelist.org/

Lessons and Resources to Teach, Lead and Inspire During a Global Pandemic

First of all, hello to all of our subscribers, teachers, and leaders.

We have been extremely quiet over the past year and for that we sincerely apologize.

However, we have been hard at work, creating hundreds of new lesson plans.

We have been modifying, updating, and editing older content and completely redesigning Pocket Passport’s user interface and experience.

More about all of that in some blogs over the coming weeks as we roll things out.

For now, we wanted to check in and hopefully offer fellow teachers and schools some lesson content and materials.

However, we thought that we should focus on positive things that are happening in the world right now.

We completely understand how easy it is to become completely absorbed, overwhelmed, and paralyzed by our current global situation.

Quite frankly, it sucks.

However, we also believe that as teachers, educators, and leaders, we need to step up like never before.

We aren’t here to dwell on what is bad with everything that is happening in the world (because that is evident enough).

More importantly, as teachers and leaders, we are here to help our students go forward positively.

We are here to teach: compassion, caring, trust, sharing, love, understanding, empathy, sympathy, how to overcome fear, cultural awareness, hope, wisdom, and optimism, to show that tomorrow will be better.

How we handle what lies ahead of us will make us better people, communities, and human beings.

This current situation is unprecedented in our lifetimes and it seems it is still very much, just the beginning.

Physical health is part one.

Economical, mental, spiritual health are all challenges which lie ahead.

As a result, we have created a series of lessons and resources to focus on things to spread all that is good today.

And what we can look forward to in the future.

I invite you all to join us to create a better world today – student-by student, and lesson-by-lesson.

So that tomorrow we are more prepared and better equipped to take on the most challenging  upcoming phase of our global pandemic: recovery.

The conversations, videos, illustrations, and lesson plans are all meant to stimulate conversations, share, and tell stories in order to make the best of this situation.

To make the world a better place.

Today’s first set of resources is a set of illustrations about sharing and caring.

We encourage you to teach vocabulary and expressions that are centered around positive, happy ideas that are helping to make the world a better place to be.

The world is in dire need of leadership right now. The world needs more leaders like you.

To access the original set and lots more resources that encourage, promote and teach optimism, growth and leadership sign up: www.pocketpassport.com

Language and culture are connected at the hip, however cultural competence is often overlooked and under-covered when teaching English.

This week we will use one of our sets of flashcards to storyboard dining etiquette in a Japanese restaurant (the examples are meant to be very light and basic though we will touch on and cover cultural competence in varying degrees later on)

This blog references and uses material from the Pocket Passport storyboard library. This particular set was created to talk about and explain dining.

The example stories that I am referencing and including links to merely touch on a couple of methods to teach this lesson. There is a myriad of ways to use these flashcards.

These stories (the pre-made stories that I am using as an example) can be used by any level students. These are two examples of a very beginner and an intermediate lesson to show the level of English that might be expected and how the language can be scaffolded if teachers choose to create their own lessons (create their own vocabulary lists, scripts, listening, vocabulary and grammar exercises).

There are infinite possibilities of how and for what level classes/courses they can be used for.

Just a few examples…

For beginner level students, have them point to each card and model what the character is saying. For a warm-up to the lesson ask them to flesh the characters out. Elicit a name and basic backgrounds for each of the characters.

A few examples of some warm up questions are:

1.  What is (his/her) name?

2. Where is he/she from?

3. Why is he/she here?

4. What is he/she doing?

5. How long will he/she stay?

Brainstorm feelings, greetings and common expressions that people use in a restaurant. For lower level students it is okay to elicit it in Japanese since one of the objectives is to ask them to explain their culture and customs in English.

You should deter your students from using sweeping generalizations like, “we Japanese…” and instead teach them more common ways to introduce their understanding of their culture such as, “In Japan it’s common…” or “Some people in Japan…” etc.

Here is an example of the language we might expect to come from a low-level student. 

Here is an example of the language we might expect to come from a low- intermediate to intermediate level student. 


A few sample flashcards 

Other Ideas:

– customs of dining in Japan

– comparing Japan and other countries dining etiquette

– greetings, meanings of greetings at a restaurant that serves dishes that  are not from an English speaking country

– customs and taboos of dining (from anywhere)

– conversation sketching and storytelling

Our extensive library can be used in a variety of fun and innovative ways to explain a number of things including: health and nutrition, social responsibility, environmental issues, cultural awareness, communicative competence, respect and manners as well as to build creativity and imagination with our fairytale and science fiction storyboards.

For more information email us at: info@pocketpassport.com

*Pocket Passport’s storyboard sets are made up of between 4 and 30 flashcards per set and touch on a variety of themes and topics.

**In addition to our storyboard sets we have over 2000 vocabulary building flashcards which can also be storyboarded.