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Aviation English Course: My TBLT Lesson Idea

One of the most exciting stages of designing a TBLT course is materials design. This TBLT lesson idea (I created on the TBLT course in 2019) is included in my Aviation English course materials (Module 3: Air Traffic Control).

Teacher’s notes + materials

Domain: Pilot/Controller communications

Learner need: vocational

Sector and/or profession: Airline Pilots / Air Traffic Controllers

Target task-type: Handle abnormal conditions in flight

Target task: Dealing with problems in flight and suggesting actions

Materials: YouTube video clip(s) of Live ATC communications – VASAviation; tapescript from clip(s) and handout with specific lines for micro-listening practice

Duration: 4 classroom hours (classroom hour = 45 minutes)


1.Learners watch YouTube video clip to tune into accents and get global understanding:

REAL ATC] Emirates B777 with EMERGENCY FUEL at Vancouver!

 (Learners read video transcript while listening)

2. Identifying the difference between standard phraseology and plain language. Learners read examples and decide in pairs which sentences are standard ATC phraseology and which are Plain English, then they write them under two headings: ATC phraseology // Plain English

3. Learners discuss the questions in small groups

4. Learners read two short texts: ICAO instructions on ATC Phraseology and Plain English use and they do True / False exercise

5. Short focus on contracted forms and connected speech patterns (e.g.  if you’d like; We’ll go to Vancouver; It’s about ten fifteen miles closer; … and understand you’re minimum fuel, I just wanna be clear here I can offer you…)

6. Micro-listening exercise with specific chunks to test recognition of function words and standard ATC phrases, plus some key vocabulary (synonyms are highlighted in the script)

7. Discussion on intelligibility & clear speech: Ls discuss the importance of effective aviation communication (ICAO guidelines and techniques for radio transmission)

8. Exit task:

Role play 1 & 2: simulation of ATC communications (reporting problems/incidents and suggesting actions)

[Learners are scored pass/fail according to whether they can perform the target task correctly]

Write an essay (around 250 words)

[Learners are scored pass/fail according to ICAO RATING SCALE, LEVEL 4: OPERATIONAL]


The lesson is based on Long’s version of task-based language teaching (TBLT). Target task is determined by needs analysis for a group of pilots and air traffic controllers (CEFR B2 level). In analyzing the discourse of ATC communications, this ATC live recording was chosen as representative. Beyond relevance, the materials aim to provide interesting tasks presenting sufficient intellectual challenge and the greatest possible approximation to real-world language use. The focus is on using task not the text as the unit of analysis, and on promoting learning by doing and not talking about the language. Exit tasks are based on criterion referenced performance tests.

Focus on Form

Some difficulties that are likely to arise while students do the tasks include:

  • Difficulty understanding accent/connected speech and other pronunciation issues in performing the task
  • Possible communicative breakdowns in negotiating a solution
  • Focus on pronunciation issues: homonyms (no / know; to / too / two; for / four; here / hear; wait / weight; root / route; brake / break; dew / due; crews / cruise, aloud / allowed)
  • Focus on other language issues that can cause misunderstanding or miscommunication (ambiguity, synonyms, various accents, use of modal verbs, etc.)
  • Possible problems with teaching Aviation English as lingua franca (accommodation strategies, rephrasing, clarification, and so on)

About ljiljana havran

English language teacher & librarian, a lifelong learner. Love: good books, music, lots of dance.

3 responses »

  1. It was very interesting for me to be able to peek into your field of expertise, Ljiljana. There is great potential in this lesson plan – even (and especially) for a general English teacher like me. I can imagine using it with some of my classes to demonstrate the many varieties and purposes of the English language they can come across these days. Thanks for sharing. And yes, the calmness and professionalism of pilots and air traffic controllers never cease to amaze me. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • ljiljana havran

      Thanks for your interesting comment, Hana. I hope your students will enjoy this ESP class, especially these pilot/ controller exchanges. Aviation English training is really important for pilots and controllers as clear speech and good pronunciation are crucial in ATC (Air Traffic Control) communications.

      The job of air traffic controller or pilot is really stressful as it carries a high level of responsibility and the training is intensely challenging. If your students are interested they can read some stories on the NATS blog where people share their insights, views and expertise on the world of Air Traffic Management:
      Our Amazing Everyday –

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Materials writing news and views, July 2021 | ELT Planning

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