I just have to give a shout out here to Garnier & Schmitt (2015) for creating this fantastic resource. Many researchers have used corpus tools (that is, large online databases of language use in context) to analyze which phrasal verbs, out of thousands, we use the most. But Garnier & Schmitt have gone farther and created a tool that is accessible to teachers:
It's a simple website, but it includes an easy way to access the 150 most common phrasal verbs in the English language, plus the most common meanings of these often polysemous verbs. While this might not be the best tool to explore polysemy (it doesn't include all the meanings of the verbs), it is an excellent resource in determining which phrasal verbs and meanings are the most important to focus on and teach.
Turns out, most teachers and textbooks use their intuition in deciding which phrasal verbs to teach. This means we are teaching some phrasal verbs that aren't used much, and missing many verbs that are used a TON. Out of the following verbs, which do you think are the most frequent? :
Figure out; Toss out; Point out, Hand out
Point out is number 9
Figure out is number 21
Toss out and hand out are not in the top 150. Surprising?
The total number of verbs and meanings listed in this online dictionary are 288. The total number of meanings in other lists of 150 most frequent phrasal verbs are more like 560-840. Number of phrasal verbs in the English language? More than 5,000 (McCarthy & O'Dell, 2004)
For more advanced students, each listed verb contains a link to a video example. Perfect.
If you really get into this tool, you might want to check out Dr. Schmitt's website and download the PHaVe List User's Manual.
Or check out one teacher's experience with using it in the classroom.