16. Note taking from a telephone conversation

Please click on the toggles below to navigate through information on this assessment task and reveal the links for downloading task materials.

Task details

Name of oral assessment task Note taking from a telephone conversation
EAL curriculum level range  C2, C3, C4
Text orientation Informative
Task type Listening and responding


Task specification

Purpose To assess students’ ability to listen to lengthy conversation about a familiar topic, take notes, and identify information conveyed in the conversation.
Description Students listen to a telephone conversation between a teacher and a student, who has been away, and who didn’t complete a subject choice form properly.  The students complete notes on what should be in the form, and answer comprehension questions.
Assumed knowledge and description
  1. Content knowledge: familiarity with subjects chosen in middle secondary years
  2. Text type, genre: telephone conversation between teacher and student who know each other well
  3. Linguistic structures and features: describing past events; asking for detailed information; using familiar, abbreviated form of the teacher’s name in a friendly, not disrespectful way
  4. Vocabulary: subject choices like ‘Advanced Maths’, ’20th Century history’

Learning/teaching context

Language centre/mainstream class Mainstream class – EAL Support
Subject/key curriculum objectives, outcomes  May be done in the context of students considering subject choices for the following year, or in relation to planning of study and career pathways.
Topic/teaching unit Subject choices in middle secondary years
Assessment Conditions
  1. Individual/pair/group activity
  2. Formal/informal: formal
  3. Time limit: Listening and responding may take about 20-30 minutes of class time, depending on the number of hearings, the ease with which the students follow, and the extent to which responses are explored and discussed.
  4. Teacher intervention: limited to response to student request for clarification and encouragement
  5. Access to resources: video recording of the conversation
  6. Scaffolding (modelled/guided/independent support): independent
  7. Accommodations: Students at lower levels may need to hear the recording for a second, or perhaps a third time. Students should not need more than three opportunities to listen to the recording to draw most of the meaning from it.
  • Pre-assessment activities can be extended or reduced as appropriate for the learners.

Task implementation

Pre-assessment activity
  • The students should have some discussion of subject names and subject choices in middle secondary years.  This could include completing their own subject selection forms.
  • The students should have had previous experience of focused listening tasks.
  • Show the students the task sheet and ensure they understand that they must do Task 1 as they listen and Task 2 after they listen.
Assessment activity
  • Tell the students they are going to hear a conversation between a teacher and a student.  The conversation is about subject choices for next year.  The student didn’t complete the subject choice form because she has been sick.
  • The students are to listen, and complete the task sheet while listening to task: Task 1
  • After hearing the conversation, they are to complete the post listening task: Task 2
  • If necessary, replay the recording for a second or third hearing (but no more), depending on the degree of difficulty students have in generally comprehending the text.
  • Click to view the task sheet for this assessment: 
Post-assessment activity

TEAL Oral Task 16 – Unmarked criteria [PDF]

TEAL Oral Task 16 – Unmarked criteria [Word]

An explanation of the purpose, nature and use of criteria sheets is available at 4. Using the assessment criteria.

Sample One
Sample Two
Sample Three
Sample Four
Sample Five







[accordion multiopen="true"]


Purpose and value of task

This task focuses solely on the listening skills of students. As a receptive skill, listening involves recognising the sounds of speech and assigning meaning to what is heard. As with reading, there is an interplay between a macro perspective, of predicting what will make sense in the context, and the recognition of the particular sounds, the words and phrases they form, and suprasegmental aspects of the speaking, such as linking stress and intonation, and the way they may contribute to the specific meanings. As well as monitoring student comprehension of what they hear on an on-going basis, from time to time it is useful to focus on students’ listening skills in isolation, in order to check that students are recognising the multiple elements of the speaking they hear (phonemes, syllables, words, linking, stress, intonation and so on), and understand the speakers they hear.

The recorded dialogue used in this task is a scripted dialogue, written specifically for the assessment task, and recorded with careful enunciation by highly proficient speakers of standard Australian English, at a moderate pace, so the students should not have undue difficulties in distinguishing what was said. The conversation covers the student’s reason for her absence, the teachers checking some incorrect or missing information on her subject choice form, and expectations of her return to school. It is in present simple and past simple tenses, with some use of present and ‘going to’ refer to the future. It has some features of conversational English with contractions, hesitations and pauses. The grammar and topic of conversation should be comprehensible to most students at Levels C2, C3 and C4 of the Victorian Curriculum F-10 EAL. Part of the conversation deals with answers about some missing information on a subject selection form. This section of the conversation may be more difficult for students who have not yet had experience of completing such forms. If that is the case, some pre-teaching of information about such forms will increase the validity of the task. The task involves four phases of assessment. The first is a set of real-time responses, which asks the students to show what they understand as they listen. The second phase asks the students to indicate their understanding of the gist of the conversation, after they have listened to the whole event. This is done through an item that asks them to choose the best summary. They are then asked for more detailed information in the conversation through a set of true-false statements. In the final phase the students are asked to make an inference about the relationship between the speakers, asking them to recognise and evaluate aspects of the conversation, such as the relatively informal, friendly but respectful use of ‘Mr G’ as the term of address used by the student to her teacher, and the intonation throughout the conversation. This assesses the students’ capacities to understand both the meaning conveyed in spoken language, and the way that spoken language can communicate information about attitudes and relationships between participants in conversations.

NOTE: The focus of the task is listening comprehension, but the completion of the task involves other skills. The students’ reading and writing skills come into play in completing their written answers. Their memory is also involved in answering the true-false statements after listening. As these are not being assessed, it is important that written responses are assessed only for the extent to which they indicate what the student heard and understood, not how they were written. So, spelling or grammatical errors in writing are not assessed. It is an assumption of the task that the students’ reading skills are adequate for them to be able to complete the task. If using the task with students for whom this assumption may not be valid, such as students with low literacy skills, an alternative mode of answering, based on spoken responses should be used. It may be useful for the teacher to read the questions first, in cases where students’ reading skills can’t be assumed to be adequate for this part of the task. While it is assumed the students’ writing skills are adequate for the task, students are not penalised for incorrect spelling or errors of writing, if the answer is intelligible, or the student can read the correct answer from what has been written. However, teachers should be alert to the possibility that students with earlier stage writing skills may interfere with the answers that students are giving. For example, in Sample video 1 the student writes Maths as the Maths subject chosen, when the correct answer in Advanced Maths. The video shows the student writing a lower case a, but then stopping and thinking. He eventually crosses out a and writes Maths. It is not possible to know exactly what he was thinking about, but it is possible that he heard the word ‘advanced’ before ‘Maths’. However, he may not have known exactly what the word was, or if he did, he did not know how to spell it, and in the end he only wrote a word he recognised and could spell. If that is the case, his incorrect answer maybe the result of a problem with writing skills, rather than listening skills. Or, it may indicate that heard a word, but did not know what it was. On the other hand, the student in Sample 2, clearly writes aveated math as her answer, and while the answer is not correctly spelt, her meaning is clear and leaves no doubt she was giving the correct answer.

Contextual information

These Year 8 (1 student) and Year 10 (4) students were not specifically prepared for this task. However, the task is based on a recording of a conversation about a situation and information that is familiar to secondary students, who have had experience of issues to do with student absence, and completion of subject selection forms. It is likely that the Year 10 students would have more understanding and experience of completion of subject selection forms than the Year 8 student, who is likely to have had less experience in choosing subject options, and may not have been aware of a subject called ‘Advanced maths’. The context of video recording meant the students completed the task in pairs, although in a more usual situation the whole class could complete the task at the same time.

The worksheet has two pages. The first page is for Phase 1, answering while listening, while the second page has the prompts for Phases 2 and 3 (summary and true-false responses) and Phase 4 (commenting on the relationship between the speakers, and giving a reason for the answer). All students were asked to complete the worksheet, and their written answers were collected after they completed the task. The students completed their answers after a single hearing of the recording, with the exception of Samples 3 and 5 who were given an additional task; to review each other’s answers immediately after completing the worksheet, and to see the extent to which they agreed in their answers, and whether they wanted to make any changes to their answers before the sheets were collected by the teacher. This was done partly to explore what happens when students are given an opportunity to peer review their responses to an assessment task, and to provide a video example of this type of activity in the TEAL video samples.


The videos reveal varied levels of performance. A simple scoring scheme was used to give marks for correct answers, without weighting answers, apart from the final question. One mark was allowed for a correct answer to all questions except the final one. A full mark was awarded for complete information, such as at the start of next week for Mehra’s return to school, and a half mark was awarded for a partial answer such as next week for the same question. The final question, which asked for the reasons for the answer given about the nature of the relationship between the student and the teacher was allowed a total of three marks. This was given to students who commented on the tone of the conversation in some way were awarded the full three marks, for example: Because their conversation sound like they gets on with each other really well. Answers that mentioned the general nature of conversation or something about the social context of the speakers received partial (1 or 2) marks. Under this marking scheme the students’ scores varied from 6.5 out of 15 (Sample 1) to 14 out of 15 (Sample 5).

The students who performed at lower levels of the tasks on the criteria sheet experienced difficulty with the section of the conversation dealing with Mehra’s date of birth. They were either mislead by the prompt to write the first date they heard (which was incorrect), or not inclined to listen to the full section of the conversation dealing with the date of birth, thinking they already had the answer. There is considerable cognitive processing required in listening to this part of the conversation, as a number of dates are given before the correct date is finally confirmed, and then completing the question on the work sheet about the date of birth. As the students hear two dates mentioned, one in numbers only, and one number and name of the month (fourth of the fifth two thousand and one, fifth of the fourth two thousand and one and the fifth of April two thousand and one.) Most of the students gave incorrect answers to the true/false statement about Mehra’s family having a new kitten (item d), which may reflect the fact the students were overwhelmed with the amount of information they had to process in this part of the conversation. The information about Mehra’s family having new kitten was also in this part of the conversation, where the different dates of birth were being discussed, and it is likely that the focus on the dates led to most of the students missing this information, or being confused about it.

Sample One
Sample Two
Sample Three
Sample Four
Sample Five

Sample 1

Biographical information

Year 8

Home language: Farsi


In completing the real-time tasks this student appeared to be concentrating hard, and listening for details. While he correctly identified the reason for Mehra’s absence and when she is returning to school, he had more difficulty in the section dealing with the information on the form. He was misled by the mention of the first, incorrect, date, and wrote that as the answer, before hearing the rest of the information. He also struggled in identifying which Maths option was chosen. He started to write a, but he left this incomplete, and wrote Math instead. It seems that he heard the word before Math, but he may not have recognised it, or he may not have known how to spell it. This illustrates the potential of problems in productive skills, in this case writing, to distort assessment information about a receptive skill. A different task-type here, such as a multiple choice item, or an option of him saying rather than writing the answer, may have enabled this student to get the correct answer, although such items also give students significant chance of success by guessing. When the student moved to the answers after he finished listening to the recording, he gave incorrect answers for the questions that relate to this part of the conversation (Mehra’s family having a new kitten, and her brother returning the form). He also gave incorrect answers for the question about Mr Giannopoulos visiting the shop, but he selected the best summary, and the correct answer to the question about Mehra’s attitude to being away from school. He also agreed that the student and teacher get on well, but his explanation referred to details of the content of the conversation, rather than the style of the conversation.

This student scored 6.5 out of a possible 15 marks for answers, using the marking scheme for the task.

The marked criteria for video Sample 1 shows he performed the task at level 1 in relation to the criteria sheet.

The student’s English language use in this task is consistent with the descriptions of students at Level C2, Victorian Curriculum F-10 EAL.

TEAL Oral Task 16 – Criteria sheet – Sample 1

Sample 2

Biographical information

Year 10

Home language: Karen


In the while-listening phase of the task, this student was also concentrating hard, and she gave correct or partially correct answers to the first two questions.

She also had difficulty with the section of the conversation dealing with the date of birth, and wrote the first date she heard. On hearing more, she appeared uncertain, and may have realised her answer was wrong, but she didn’t seem confident about changing it. While she had problems spelling ‘advanced Maths’, there is no doubt she heard and understood this information.

In the after-listening phase of the task, she circled a number of words or phrases, rather then selecting one of the options. It seemed that she didn’t understand what she was being asked to do here. She gave correct answers to most of the true-false statements, which suggests she  understood most of the conversation. However, she missed the item about the kitten; again this part of the tape proved difficult for this student.

While she identified there is a positive relationship between the student and teacher, her reason focused on the meaning rather than the style of communication. In her answer she wrote (not visible on the video) ‘because she were eating by the wrong food’.

This student scored 8.5 out of a possible 15 marks for answers, using the marking scheme for the task.

The marked criteria for video Sample 2 shows she performed the task at level 2 in relation to the criteria.

The student’s English language use in this task is consistent with the descriptions of students at Level C2, Victorian Curriculum F-10 EAL.

TEAL Oral Task 16 – Criteria sheet – Sample 2

Sample 3

Biographical information

Year 10

Home language: Dinka


In the while-listening part of the task, this student correctly identified some information. While his answer about Mehra’s absence was correct (food poisoning) he also wrote ‘at the hospital’, which may refer to Mehra’s failure to be at home to answer the original phone call, but which is not information given in the conversation. At first he didn’t write anything about when Mehra will return to school, but later wrote next week, a partial answer, after hearing the end of the conversation when the teacher says ‘See you next week!’ The section of the conversation dealing with the date of birth is again challenging, and this student wrote the first date he heard, in the form he heard it (numbers 4/5/2001) and didn’t correct this on the basis of the information subsequently provided in the conversation. He identified the elective subjects correctly.

In the after-listening phase of the task, he originally chose Option B, which is a less complete summary than the intended Option C. Note that his approach to answering the true-false questions was to cross out the incorrect option, leaving the correct option as unmarked. After the first hearing of the conversation, he had two correct answers for the true-false statements (items b and e), two incorrect (items a and c), and left one (item d) unanswered. While he identified the teacher and student as having a positive relationship, his rather colloquial answer suggests that he sees the nature of the relationship as being an element in the conversation. However, he saw that as influencing whether they would be holding the conversation or not, and gave an answer explaining a negative case ‘because if they didn’t get along with each other they wouldn’t be talking, I reckon’. This suggests he is not aware of the ways in which attitudes may be signalled in conversation, and is perhaps culturally unaware, or naïve, about the Australian school context, where teachers and students have to talk and work cooperatively, even if they don’t like each other.

Peer review of written answers (summary and T/F items only) and second hearing of the conversation

The student first added an (incorrect) answer to his missing true-false answer (item d). During the second hearing of the conversation he selects the correct option, c, for the summary item. He corrects two of his original answers, changing item a to false, and item c to true.

After the first listening of the dialogue this student scored 7.5 out of a possible 15 marks for answer on his first listening, using the marking scheme for the task. This increased to 10.5 following the second listening. This student appears confident in his approach to the task, but he is not listening as accurately as his appearance suggests, and he is able to do better in terms of accurate answers with a second hearing of the recording.

The marked criteria sheet for video Sample 3 shows he mostly performed the task at level 2 on the criteria sheet, on his first listening.

The student’s English language use in this task is consistent with the descriptions of students at Level C2, Victorian Curriculum F-10 EAL.

TEAL Oral Task 16 – Criteria sheet – Sample 3

Sample 4

Biographical information

Year 10

Home language: Karen



This student correctly answered all questions in the while-listening phase of the task. In the after listening questions, she identified the best summary. She gave mostly correct answers for the true-false statements, the exceptions being item a, about the teacher often visiting the hamburger shop, and item c, about Mehra’s family having a new kitten. This item caused considerable difficulty, and was correctly answered in the first attempt by only one student (Video sample 5), although the student in video sample 3 corrected this after the second listening. The student identified the teacher and student as getting on well together, and was able to give a reason based on the sound of their conversation, although she also attributes it to the fact they are asking each other questions, acknowledging a two-way flow to the conversation, rather than a one-way flow where a teacher asks questions and the students answers, which might not be the case in a conversation that was more formal.

This student scored 13 out of a possible 15 marks for answers, using the marking scheme for the task.

The marked criteria for video Sample 2 shows she performed the task at level 4 in relation to the criteria sheet.

The student’s English language use in this task is consistent with the descriptions of students at Level C4, Victorian Curriculum F-10 EAL.

TEAL Oral Task 16 – Criteria sheet – Sample 4

Sample 5

Biographical information

Year 10

Home language: Shona



This student answered all answers correctly in the while-listening part of the task. In the after-listening he gave two incorrect answers to true-false items (item a, about the teacher going to the shop, and item d, about Mehra’s brother returning the form.

His answer to the final question giving reasons about the relationship mentioned: seems to be friendly, and understanding of the situation. While this is not as explicit an answer as the student in Sample 4, it suggests he is aware of aspects of the conversation that convey attitudes as well as information.

Peer review of written answers (summary and T/F items only), and second hearing of the conversation 

When hearing the conversation for a second time, this student self corrected his incorrect answer to true-false item b (about the teacher visiting the shop).

At the point of the tape where the information pertinent to item d (about Mehra’s brother returning the form) he looked at his partner’s answers. This suggests he wasn’t fully confident in his answer. His partner had an incorrect answer, and maybe this resulted in this student not being confident enough to change his answer to this item, and it remained incorrect.

This student scored 13 out of a possible 15 marks for answers after the first hearing of the conversation. His self-correction during the second listening resulted in a score of 14 out of 15, using the marking scheme for the task.

The marked criteria for video Sample 5 shows he performed the task at level 4 in relation to the criteria sheet.

The student’s English language use in this task is consistent with the descriptions of students at Level C4, Victorian Curriculum F-10 EAL.

TEAL Oral Task 16 – Criteria sheet – Sample 5

Using the assessment for further learning

Self review

As video Samples 3 and 5 illustrate, a second hearing and opportunities to review answers with a peer can assist students in better completion of a listening task. The activities listed below also help students address some of the difficulties evident in the video samples.

1. Listening skills: Listening to all of a section of a conversation before reaching a conclusion

Students who performed at the lower criteria levels often made the mistake of assuming the first date they heard was correct when they were listening for information about a date of birth. Discuss this, possibly showing students the videos, and show how this led to them missing when the correct information was presented.

Explain how it can be helpful to listen to all the relevant information before reaching a conclusion about what has been said. You may need to play the dialogue again to show how this is the case in this conversation.

It would be useful to build up a class list of words that can signal contradictory or correcting information in a conversation, starting with words such as but, however, although, and ask students for other words they know that could be added to the list.

Find two or three short stretches of recorded speech where it is necessary to listen to a full section before concluding what has been said. Statements that clarify confused or incorrect information will be useful in this task, such as, Although she said she arrived at 7pm, it was clear when they viewed the cctv film she didn’t arrive until 9.30pm, He handed in his homework, however he failed as it was handed in a day late.  or She arrived on time, but she didn’t have all of the equipment she needed. As you play the recording, or say the statements, ask the students to raise their hands when they are sure they have the complete and correct information.

2. Listening to dates and numbers

Read a number of dates in number form e.g. 23/7/2013 or in words, e.g. the twenty-seventh of August twenty-twelve. Give the students a worksheet with at least two written options for each date you read, and ask the students to select the option they heard.

Chose some options that are very similar, such as 4/6/2001 and 6/4/2001.

This may also provide an opportunity to make students aware of the different conventions for writing dates in numbers between Australian English (and other varieties such as British and New Zealand English), which use dd/mm/yyyy, (such as 12/6/2012), and North American English (of the USA and Canada), which use mm/dd/yyyy, such as 6/12/2012 (for the twelfth of June). This is why September 11, 2001, is widely referred to as ‘nine-eleven’. This will be useful, as students are increasingly encountering texts written in North America, particularly in online materials.

3. Listening for markers of speakers’ attitudes to each other

Play just Mehra’s final farewell, Bye! to Mr. Giannopoulos, which is marked with strong rising and falling intonation.

Ask the students to imitate Mehra’s intonation. Ask them to speculate on why she says it in the way she does.

Then model how the word could be said in other ways e.g. with very flat intonation (which sounds disinterested), or falling intonation (which sounds dismissive and disrespectful). Use this as the basis for a class discussion about how intonation can convey, or be interpreted as, conveying attitudes.

Ask the students to role-play parts of the recorded conversation, using the script, deliberately using the following intonation patterns:

  • varied, interested and friendly sounding intonation similar to that in the recorded dialogue
  • flat, unvaried intonation, which sounds like the person speaking isn’t very involved or interested in the conversation, or sounds dismissive
  • often-falling intonation on the part of the teacher, which makes it sound as if he is not interested in the student, and expects her to show him respect.

Also ask the students to look for other ways the speakers mark their relationship, e.g. why does Mehra call her teacher Mr G and not Sir, or Mr Giannopoulos? Ask students to discuss whether they can do this with all adults or teachers, how do they know who they can do this with? How do they know if someone is comfortable with such a familiar form of address? What responses to the tone they use in a conversation would make them change the tone they were using?


Skip to toolbar