Celebrating COBUILD at 30

As part of the celebrations for the 30th anniversary of the first COBUILD dictionary, a real landmark in the field of lexicography and the project that first encouraged me to become a lexicographer, I’ve written a post for the Collins ELT blog about how the meanings of words have changed in the past three decades. Back in 1987, words like wireless, click and hybrid hadn’t yet acquired the senses we all use now without a second thought.

COBUILD wireless 87

Entry for ‘wireless’ from the first edition (1987)

COBUILD wireless 18

Entry for ‘wireless’ from the latest, ninth edition

Click here to read my post.


Talking about vocabulary: IATEFL 2018 & a webinar

IATEFL 2018: Spring seems to be finally on its way – if rather intermittently in terms of the UK weather – and I’m starting to look forward to the annual IATEFL conference, which is by the seaside in Brighton this year. As ever, it’ll be a great chance to catch up with all my ELT friends and colleagues, to see what the current ELT buzz is about and to arrange a few meetings with publishing contacts to chat about possible new work. I’m also going to be doing a session – independent of any publishers this year – on the Wednesday afternoon (11 Apr) as part of the MaWSIG showcase of sessions related to materials development. My session is entitled Vocabulary lists: snog, marry, avoid? I’ll be talking about the kind of standardized wordlists that have become increasingly popular amongst ELT publishers to inform the vocabulary strand of their materials. I’ve put together a short video below to introduce my session:

OUP webinar: Hot on the heels of IATEFL, I’ll be giving a webinar the following week, 19 April, for OUP entitled: Academic Vocabulary: what do students need to know about a word? I’ll be looking at why it’s especially important for students who are studying English for academic purposes (EAP) to work on understanding key vocabulary in depth rather than just adding words to their stock of lexis on a rather superficial level. I’ll be talking about some of the features of academic vocabulary that a student needs to get to grips with in order to use words accurately and appropriately in their own academic writing. You can find out more and register for the webinar here.

2018 ELT Freelancers’ Awayday

I’m really looking forward to my first event of the year, meeting up with lots of other ELT freelancers in Oxford at the ELT Freelancers’ Awayday for a day of catching up and sharing ideas. It’s a great opportunity to see old friends and to meet new people too.

This year, I’m going to be presenting, with a 10-minute talk introducing some simple ways that ELT editors can use corpus tools to answer tricky language questions that might not be answered in their usual go-to reference sources:Awayday18


Teacher training in Moscow

In November, I was invited to run a day-long teacher training workshop for English teachers in Moscow. I’d last visited Russia on a school trip in 1986, so it was a fantastic opportunity to go back and explore a fascinating – and much-changed – city.

_DSC0108 (2)

The workshop focused on Teaching Advanced Writing Skills and I spent the day with 27 teachers exploring:
– Why? Thinking about the aims and rationales behind writing lessons
– What? Looking at the types of skills we can teach
– How? Evaluating a range of activity types that can be used to teach writing skills
– What next? Considering the important editing, feedback and review stages

It was a thoroughly enjoyable day, working with a group of really engaged and motivated teachers who’d given up there day off, and the feedback was really positive. I hope I can arrange more similar workshops in 2018.

You can read more about the trip on my blog.

How to Write EAP: A New Print Version

It was very exciting last week to see my ebook How to Write EAP Materials in a new print version as part of a collection of similar titles all focused around how to write materials for teaching English in specific contexts (ESP, Business English, Corporate training materials and ESOL).

How to Write ESP series
This new version contains the full text of the original ebook, but was also a chance for me to add a few updates, especially drawing on my experiences over the past couple of years working on the Oxford Academic Vocabulary Practice books and including insights from recent research into academic vocabulary.

Both the new collection and the original ebook are available via Amazon:
How to Write Excellent ELT Materials: The ESP Series (print)
How to Write EAP Materials (ebook)

Blogging about grammar

With my background in lexicography, I generally think of myself as a bit of a ‘words girl’ and I do a lot of work around teaching vocabulary. Recently though, I’ve been straying into the area of grammar and collaborating with Penny Hands and Damian Williams on a series of posts on the Collins ELT blog to mark the launch of the new edition of the COBUILD English Grammar.collins-cobuild-pack-shotMy first post saw me on familiar ground considering the overlap between grammar and vocabulary. Look out for more posts appearing over the coming weeks exploring different areas of grammar. Each post is accompanied by a downloadable worksheet that may be useful for advanced learners or trainee teachers to think through the issues raised.

Timesaver IELTS Reading

Hot on the heels of Timesaver IELTS Vocabulary that was published at the end of last year, I’ve just received copies of another Timesaver title I worked on (together with co-author Norman Whitby), this time focusing on the reading section of the IELTS test.


Timesaver IELTS Starter Reading is another book of photocopiable lessons for classes preparing for the IELTS test. This time though it’s aimed at students whose level is roughly equivalent to a score of 4.0-5.5. The material introduces the style and format of the IELTS test to these lower-level students in a simple, step-by-step format with plenty of support and scaffolding. Each lesson includes a practice reading text and deals with a particular question type and exam skill, walking students through the process of understanding and answering exam-style questions.