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We can provide talks and presentations for conferences and events as well as professional development sessions for your institution. The talks detailed in this section were generally written as 45-60 minute sessions, but we can adapt most to create workshops of up to three hours.

All our talks and presentations are grounded in our experience as teachers trainers and materials writers. Most will have elements of theory, personal anecdote, practical applications in the classroom and illustrations of materials. The division into categories, therefore, reflects the main focus of the talks.

The talks have usually been written by one us, with some input from the other. However, we frequently deliver each others’ talks, perhaps with slight variations reflecting our differing experiences and style of delivery.

Click on the side bar to see details of the talks we currently give. If you don’t see anything that fits the theme of your event we may be able to provide something more tailored.

Techniques and activities

Principles and theory
Materials and content

Rethinking Teacher Talking Time
This talk challenges the conventional view that less teacher talking time (TTT) is by definition a good thing, and claims instead that such views get in the way of sensible discussion abut the uses (and abuses) of TTT. Whilst recognising that some kinds of TTT do more harm than good, we would also like to propose that TTT is actually at heart of much of what good teachers do: explaining and modelling usage of new language; modelling tasks and exercises; retelling students’ stories; eliciting and even simply just chatting – as through chat, much else of use often develops.

Using the whiteboard to teach language better
This talk is based on a small research project conducted a few years ago, which looked at what teachers wrote on the board, teachers’ beliefs about board work, students’ reactions to board work and the notes they took from it. The findings raise a number of questions: how much we teach; where students’ notes come from and what they do with them; the examples we give as teachers – and how far teacher beliefs are actually reflected in practice. Some suggestions are given with regard to training.

Teaching Grammar Better
The majority of students spent many hours studying grammar forms and meanings and doing practice exercises. Nevertheless, most still struggle to put this knowledge into practice. In this talk, we suggest that the kind of PPP (Present, Practise, Produce) lessons that dominate ELT are part of the problem, and that if we want students to use the grammar they study, we need to start teaching grammar differently – and better. This involves thinking more about how grammar is used; doing away with the study of structures in isolation; ensuring more frequent recycling of grammatical structures within examples of everyday conversations and doing different things with different kinds of grammar at different levels.

A Dogme approach to coursebooks
With its emphasis on conversation, emergent language and a materials light approach, Dogme has long been seen as antithetical to coursebooks. However, in this practical polemic we argue that it doesn’t have to be this way and that Dogme can offer sensible guidelines for both the use and construction of coursebooks!

Better writing outcomes
This workshop looks at the idea of two categories of writing – writing as general practice and writing to develop within a particular genre. The first can vary from notes to example sentences to extended writing, but is not restricted by rules or text types. We consider its value, look at some exercise types and think about how we might best provide feedback. Where students need to produce a particular kind of text, such as in an exam or in a work situation, we need to focus on specific rules, grammar and vocabulary for those texts and show models of how they work. Again, feedback needs to reflect this.

Performing memorization in class
The role of memory in language learning has remained sadly neglected for far too long. In this provocative talk, we will be exploring why the activation of memory is so central and, with the use of classroom videos, exploring four key ways in which teachers can encourage students to perform memorization.

Taking revision and recycling seriously
With the help of personal anecdotes, this talk expands on the key idea of repeated comprehended encounters with language over time being essential for learning. Through the talk and practical workshop elements, we’ll see how we can integrate the process of recycling into more of our teaching (and how it’s particularly effective with vocabulary) and then consider how students keep notes and how we check on them. We will also look at some simple revision exercises any teacher can use with almost no preparation.

Teaching grammar lexically
Given its name, it’s perhaps logical to assume that a lexical approach to language teaching is more interested in vocabulary than grammar. In reality, though, it means a far more constant and thorough coverage of grammar than many more traditional approaches. In this talk, we’ll be considering what teaching grammar lexically might involve – and exploring why it’s better! We’ll touch upon the problems of a structures + words approach for the learning of both grammar and vocabulary; the lexical limits of much grammar; the importance of grammar as lexis, particularly at lower levels – and much more on top!

Improving hearing
This talk suggests that listening ‘skills’ would be better conceived as language and hearing abilities. It also suggests that the difference of listening for gist and for specific information is less an issue of only listening to certain bits, and more of what we choose to remember. We will look at some practical tasks we can do to reorient different stages of listening lessons towards the teaching of language and also at tasks that help with pronunciation and the hearing of language. Finally, we look at the role of a listener in conversation and the importance of teaching language for this.

Using technology to achieve better outcomes
Over recent years, teachers in the ELT industry have been bombarded with a never-ending stream of new technological innovations. More and more of our Continuing Professional Development time is given over to getting to grips with new sites, apps, devices, tools and toys. For many of us, this can seem overwhelming. Where to begin? What to focus on most? And why? And how can all the new advances be integrated into our teaching in a principled, language-focused way? In this talk, we outline eight technological innovations that we have integrated into our own teaching – explaining what we use, how we use it, and – most importantly – why.

Motivating students a ten-step guide
Keeping students interested in the learning process is one of the biggest challenges we face. In this talk, we explore practical ways of ensuring motivation levels stay high. We consider the importance of listening – and talking – to students and of engaging in meaningful communication; we discuss the importance of teaching useful language that is useful; we look at what it means to teach the class first and the coursebook second – and learn how (and why!) to correct through reformulation of whole language. Finally, we suggest that the key to motivation may well lie in worrying less about topics – and more about language.

Making the leap from grammar to lexis
Grammar is reassuring. As teachers, we have all invested time and effort in working out how to explain it. Yet it only takes students so far. This talk explores the fears around making the leap into the unknown and beginning to teach more lexically – and suggests eight ways of making the transition easier.

Localising the global coursebook
As ELT became a global industry, so too did coursebooks. In their attempts to be all things to all people, and to somehow be about everywhere, coursebooks often end up feeling as if they are about nowhere in particular. When there is a recognizable identity, frequently it is Anglo-centric. For teachers outside native-speakers contexts, with students who possess varying degrees of motivation, this can pose serious problems: how can teachers make their students feel as if English relates to them, their lives and their own realities? In this talk, we explore these questions and suggest that the way teachers deal with everyday classroom materials can have a profound effect on students’ relationship with English.

Language-focused teacher development
Many strands of ELT emphasize the importance of interaction, responding to students language needs in the moment and creating language-rich classrooms. In this talk, we argue that while these are valuable approaches in principle, in practice they demand a lot of teachers – and teacher education and development programmes may not address these problems. We will finish by suggesting some tasks for teachers to develop their language awareness on an ongoing basis.

20 / 20 vision: twenty things in twenty years
This talk aims to summarise the most important lessons learned over two decades in the classroom, in a pithy, entertaining and provocative manner. Some of the twenty points covered are the fact that the true purpose of working on pronunciation in class is actually to aid listening; the fact that the manner in which we’re taught to think about grammar hinders our teaching; the way in which recipes overshadow the vital importance of theory – and the necessity of avoiding Neuro-linguistic Programming and other ideas on learning styles

Technology & principles in language teaching
This talk in part questions the widely held assumption that technology is good in and of itself – and that teachers who don’t use it are by default poor teachers or unprofessional. It then looks at certain examples of apps and technology for teaching and the ‘principles’ that are implicit within them. We argue that often these are ‘principles’ that have long been discredited. We also express concerns regarding quality and time involved with tech, before presenting some alternative principled uses of technology.

Five Golden Rules
The Lexical Approach has been with us for over two decades, but the ideas that inform it have been slow to trickle down into the classroom. To counter this, this talk lays out Five Golden Rules that lead to better – and more lexical – teaching. We will consider the importance of using lexically-rooted material – and the implications for the classroom; how we can foster better language awareness in our learners; alternative ways of thinking about correction; how to explain, exemplify and use students to expand – and the hows and whys of personalised practice.

Problems and possibilities of teaching lexically
This talk summarises the implications of a lexical approach for the way teachers view language, considers the sea change in syllabus that this necessitates and give an overview of the problems those willing to undertake such a shift in perspective can expect to encounter. It then moves on to discuss the possibilities teaching lexically allows: the introduction of lexically-rich materials into the classroom, a move towards a more input-oriented methodology and a down-playing of tense-oriented grammar in favour of lexis in all its shapes and forms – collocations, single words, idioms, fixed phrases and so on.

ELF and other fairy tales
This provocative session challenges some common assumptions about English as a Lingua Franca and English Language Teaching. Among other things, we suggest that there is not a native speaker bias in ELT materials; that students may well want ELT materials to be more native-speaker-centric, rather than less; that the current debate about ELF is anti-teaching at heart; and that any attempt to define ELF is essentially doomed. Finally, we look at some principles by which teachers can make informed decisions about which language to teach – and what kind of pronunciation goals are appropriate.

TEFL and the midlife crisis
This talk uses the metaphor of the midlife crisis to discuss certain dominant trends in English Language Teaching. This leads on to a workshop discussion of teacher beliefs – and the claim that if we had greater thought and openness about the beliefs and principles that guide both teachers and trainers, then we may avoid such swings in teaching practice as are sometimes seen in ELT.

In the wrong level
This talk looks at reasons why students may feel they are in the wrong class and how teachers may find themselves using books that don’t suit their students’ level. It argues that there is a fundamental lie underpinning existing levels of coursebooks and that too frequently we underestimate the time needed to reach proficiency. To make matters worse, this can sometimes be exacerbated by teachers’ lack of a language focus and by coursebooks’ emphasis on building blocks of tense grammar. The talk suggests some structural and practical classroom-based solutions to mixed-level classes.

The Curse of Creativity
This talk critiques the peculiar construct of creativity that much of the ELT world seems to be in thrall to. We suggest that in all areas of human endeavour it is actually the routine, the formulaic, the predictable and the mundane that underpin the creative process. This is as true for classroom practice as it for language use and thus has serious implications for teachers, trainers and materials writers.

Translation: tackling the taboo
For too long, translation has been taboo in too many classrooms. This blanket ban stems from both native speaker dominance AND a failure to appreciate the many benefits translation can offer, resulting in a deskilling of teachers – particularly non-natives. In this taboo-busting talk, I will explore the uses (and, of course, abuses) of L1 use in class.

What have corpora ever done for us?
In this talk, whilst acknowledging the debt we owe to corpora, we explore several key issues that arise from the privileged position corpora currently hold. Among other things, we critique and complicate the notion that word frequency is important; the native-speaker bias that permeates corpora; the socially-constructed and mediated nature of corpora; the limitations of corpora for materials writing purposes; and the way corpora accidentally rob teachers of their common sense and hunches.

Do as I say and not as I do
This talk begins with a critical overview of short initial training courses, suggesting that they do not sufficiently reflect real teaching practice – in particular, in terms of the length of lessons trainees teach; the discrete presentation of grammar points teachers are forced into; the lack of time allowed for teachers to respond to students and to try some spontaneous teaching; and, finally, the limited focus on language they allow. We close by suggesting some tentative alternative solutions.

Lexis, Speaking and the Non-Native Speaker Teacher
That much everyday language use is highly formulaic is now widely accepted. However, there has been much debate as to whether such a view of language has any relevance for non-native speaker teachers of English as an International Language. There have been countless claims put forward to explain why non-natives may well struggle with less traditional modes of teaching. We believe that there are sound reasons why non-natives have the upper hand when it comes to teaching lexically. We outline these reasons whilst also addressing the flexible cultural positions language can be utilized in, the lunacy of demonizing translation and the wonders of local knowledge!

Materials and content

New routes to fluency
This talk explores how the model of phrasebooks and the metaphor of London taxi drivers doing “The Knowledge” can be used to explain why we should be using more dialogues and chunks to develop students fluency – instead of falling back on the traditional grammar + vocabulary approach to language. It also involves a short workshop element.

Exams, grammar and lexis: debunking the myths
This talk suggests that our idea of what exams – and particularly the Cambridge suite of exams – test is often at variance with what is actually tested. By looking at examples of such common tests of proficiency as FCE and IELTS, we find that the verb phrases that dominate most EFL courses have only a small part to play. The importance of lexis and lexico-grammar will then be explored and it will be proposed that in robust proficiency exams, exam skills should have little value. Finally, we will look at some ways our teaching might focus better on exam needs.

Grammar is dead, long live grammar!
This talk explains how and why certain kinds of grammar – and in particular the verb phrase and a focus on tense – have consistently remained king despite changes in methodology and corpora-driven findings into the nature of language. There will be a discussion of the problems that result from the status quo and we’ll then move on to explore how recent corpora-based findings about the nature of language necessitate a major change in the kind of language we spend classroom time looking at. Finally, we’ll discuss the practical classroom implications of this view.

Teaching spoken language means more grammar, not less
In this talk, we explore some fundamental problems with the way grammar is all-too often thought about and presented to students – and we report on what can happen to students as a result. We shall then look at ways in which a more serious consideration of how language is actually used when we speak can lead to a much more sensible, practical attitude to grammar in the classroom.

Choosing vocabulary to teach
This workshop shows how many of us have a limited grasp of the frequency of vocabulary because of what’s known as ‘an availability bias’. It also shows how lexical sets can often quickly lead to the teaching of language that is infrequent and not very enabling for the kinds of communication and reading students need to do. We suggest ways to ensure students get more exposure to high frequency language, and look at how teachers can better consider the examples they give, can adapt or create different lexical sets and can make full use of dictionaries, texts and word lists.

Teaching the know-alls: what do advanced students really need?
Advanced students can have a ‘been there, done that’ attitude, which many coursebooks seem to counteract with heavy literary texts, ‘difficult’ vocabulary and tasks akin to applied linguistics. In this talk, we question if this is what advanced-level students really need either academically or socially, and outline how you could take a different tack. The talk aims to show that you don’t have to resort to either the academic or overly idiomatic to provide something new for advanced students to learn.

Making life easier for low-level students
This talk begins with a personal discussion of second language learning experiences and compares this with how first languages are learned. While acknowledging the limits of L1 learning as a model for L2 learning, it emphasizes how the limits placed on presenting grammar in EFL limit the kinds of conversations students are allowed to have. By focusing on short conversations and exchanges, and making use of students’ own ideas, we can teach low-level learners more varied and real conversation and enable students to deal better with grammar at a later stage of learning.

What are texts in the classroom for?
The idea of teaching receptive skills has become widely accepted, yet neither research nor classroom experience nor students’ own needs offer much in support of the concept of skills training. This talk argues we need to rethink the content of texts as materials for the classroom and to reconnect them more explicitly to language teaching.

Taboo or not Taboo: that’s in the question.
This workshop explains how publishers and to some extent teachers avoid taboo topics, but also considers the problematic idea of basing whole lessons around “taboo’ subjects and forcing students into certain positions. The talk argues how we might write material and ask questions about language in textbooks which will leave space for discussions to emerge, if students are interested.

Stereotypes and racism in ELT
This talk looks at how different nationalities are often represented in EFL material and talked about by ELT practitioners. We suggest that stereotypes are often reinforced and that – at worst – statements about culture and learners can often be racist. We then outline some ways for teachers to guard against this, and ways of raising awareness of such issues on teacher training courses. Finally, we explore how we can all teach language to challenge stereotypes and combat generalizations.

Bridging the culture gap
Culture in the classroom causes more confusion and conflict that almost anything else. What should we be teaching students about culture? And whose culture should we be focusing on? What does intercultural competence mean? And how do we teach it? I aim to answer all these questions and more!

Does the CEFR require different teaching and materials?
This talk presents concerns many teachers have about the Common European Framework, and explains the basic idea behind the framework. It shows how it is not dogmatic about approaches to teaching and content, but does raise many questions that can challenge existing coursebook / grammar dominated approaches to ELT.