18. Role play: giving advice to a friend

Task details

Name of oral assessment task Role play: giving advice to a friend
EAL curriculum level range  B2, B3, C2, C3, C4
Text orientation Persuasive
Task type Interaction and negotiation


Task specification

Purpose To assess students’ ability to give advice and make suggestions to a friend.
Description Students work in pairs to role-play a situation where a student is talking to a friend about a problem (a clash of dates between an important role in the school concert and an important family dinner)
Assumed knowledge and description
  1. Content knowledge: Age-appropriate personal problems related to family and school life, and awareness of strategies for potential ways of resolving these.
  2. Text type, genre: Informal conversation between friends, about a problem and possible solutions to the problem.
  3. Linguistic structures and features: 
  • Describing a problem, and asking for help or suggestions
  • Use of modal verbs to give advice and make suggestions
  • Ways of identifying and describing problems: The problem is that… I don’t know what to do! What can I do? What am I going to do? What can/should/might I do? 
  • Ways of giving advice and making suggestions: (maybe) I/you could/should… You could/should/must (shouldn’t, mustn’t)… 
  • Turn taking in conversations
  1. Vocabulary: Relevant to the problem, a clash between a school activity and a family commitment.


Learning/teaching context

Language centre/mainstream class EAL support
Subject/key curriculum objectives, outcomes  English/EAL
Topic/teaching unit personal problems and solutions
Assessment conditions
  1. Pair activity
  2. Formal/informal: informal, spontaneous speech
  3. Time limit: one lesson
  4. Teacher intervention:  limited to encouragement
  5. Scaffolding (modelled/guided/independent support): independent
  6. Accommodations: Nature of problem may be adjusted to resemble the experiences of the students.
  • Pre-assessment activities can be extended or reduced as appropriate for the learners.
  • The discussion may be audio recorded for more careful analysis and assessment of individual students after the performance.  This may enable focused assessment and feedback for each student.

Task implementation

Pre-assessment activity
  • Ask students to think about and discuss situations in the past when they have been asked to give advice.
  • If available, view a video of a conversation in which friends discuss a problem and give advice.
  • Revise ways of asking for and giving advice, responding sympathetically and turn taking
  • Students are put into pairs ‘A’ and ‘B’.
  • Student ‘A’ reads role play card ‘A’ describing a personal problem.  Student ‘B’ reads role play card ‘B’  with information about a similar problem and how it was resolved.
  • Ensure students fully understand the roles
  • The students are given 7 to 8 minutes to think about what they might say to their partner.
  • Click to view pre-assessment materials for this task: 
Assessment activity
Post-assessment activity
  • Role plays are performed in front of a larger audience in class, and the audience asked to provide suggestions to the problem.
  • A larger group of students role play what happens when the advice given is taken up.
  • Students could write letters to a friend, describing the problem, and responding giving the advice provided in the conversation role play.

Sample One
Sample Two
Sample Three
Sample Four
Sample Five






Purpose and nature of the task

The task involves students in pairs role-playing giving advice about an imaginary problem, to a friend. The problem is related to a school context, so it is expected students can relate to it without much difficulty. The task involves the language needed for giving advice, a common function in social interaction with friends, but also in academic contexts where students listen to teachers, and where they work collaboratively together, particularly in assessment for learning activities. The situation of the role play involves the use of a range of tenses –simple present to describe the situation, and simple past to describe past events, Mr Rob was very angry last year. Conditionals can be used in discussing likely or hypothetical events, involving the use of future for events that are likely to happen My mum will be angry, and modals for less likely or hypothetical events, My parents wouldn’t be happy about that. There are opportunities for the speaker giving advice to offer that advice in varying degrees of strength by using different modals, such as you could, you might, you should, you really should, you must, and also in using the negative forms of these, as statements or questions, Couldn’t you? You mustn’t.

The situation of the interaction also involves some cultural aspects. As well as initial greetings, and statements of appreciation at the conclusion, a degree of sympathetic or empathetic interaction would be expected in this situation.


The students in these videos were given the role play cards at a relatively short notice, without opportunity to explore or study the language relevant to the task. In this context the assessment task has a diagnostic assessment quality, although it could also be related to a unit of work where students work on the language for giving advice, and then have an achievement focus in assessing how well students have learned what has been taught.

The video samples involve students with a range of ages. While it is possible the older secondary students are able to better explore the implications of suggested actions, the younger students are also able to engage with the task and meet the demands it makes of them.


This task makes slightly different linguistic demands of the two students, depending on whether they are the student giving advice or the student receiving advice. The language functions and roles expected of the participants can be summarised as:

Greeting Could relate to both students
Opening request for help The student asking for advice
Statement of the problem The student asking for advice, although the student offering the advice may restate the problem
Recount of previous experience Could relate to both students
Suggested solution(s) The student giving advice, although the student seeking advice may come up with their own ideas for solutions in the course of the exploration of ideas
Exploration of ideas Could relate to both students
Response to suggestions Usually, the student seeking advice


There may be some variation to these patterns, depending on how students structure the conversation. Teachers need to focus on each student, how each one performs their role, and be aware that the performance of one student may influence their partner’s performance.

The samples show a range of levels of performance by the different pairs of students. The students in the samples have differing levels of control over key language such as the conditionals and modals. There are also variations in the ability to consistently use tenses to mark past and future events. There are variable features of their language, with issues in the use of prepositions for the students in Sample 2, and pronunciation being less clear in Sample 1. The students in Samples 3, 4 and 5 have more extended conversations and explore more suggestions and the implications of the suggestions, more than in Samples 1 and 2. While the students are reasonably well matched with their partners, in terms of their language skills, there are some noticeable variations in the language use between the two students shown in some of the samples videos.

Sample One
Sample Two
Sample Three
Sample Four
Sample Five

Sample 1

Biographical Information

Year 10 (both students)

Student A (left of screen)

Home language: Thai

Student B (right of screen)

Home language: Korean


These students are able to communicate on the topic, despite limitations and noticeable errors in the language they use. Student B has control over some features, such as the modals could and should for giving advice, that Student A does not. While Student A is able to state the problem, but uses my parents say that [the family dinner] is good and important more than my school concert, but I don’t want.., and asks for help. However while her meaning is clear she has problems forming the questions – she asks e.g. How can I do? Student B is able to offer advice using better-structured utterances, because you practised and consult very long time. But she is limited in what she says in justification for her advice, I just follow your opinion because your idea is more important.

Student A makes errors of sentence formation and the use of prepositions, as well as using incomplete verb phrases in explaining the problem and reacting to her partner’s suggestion. These are noticeable but she is still able to communicate her intended meaning.

Both students’ pronunciation is intelligible but not always clear.  Student A says some words that are hard to understand, e.g. parents’ relative and because my school concert is my (sounds like) ‘skill’, and while student B’s pronunciation is clearer, both students’ sound slightly staccato dues to errors of rhythm and linking of sounds. They are rather over polite in their interaction with each other, until they relax at the very end of the task. This is probably the result of the effort they are putting into finding the words and structures they need to communicate their meanings, preventing them from them being more relaxed in their interaction.

The marked criteria sheet shows that both students meet many criteria at level 1 of performance, while student B meets some criteria at levels 2 and 3.

Their language use in this task is consistent with Level C2, Victorian Curriculum F-10 EAL, with Student B being further along this level than Student A.

TEAL Oral Task 18 – Criteria sheet – Sample 1

Sample 2

Biographical information

Year level: Year 5 (both students)

Home language: Burmese (both students)



The teacher helps set up the situation and elicits what the students might say.

For these two Year 5 students the situation has been slightly modified, to make the situation more concrete for these younger learners. The situation presented to them is that the student wishes to be in the school concert, but has an obligation to be with their sick grandmother.

These students have an animated discussion that explores some possibilities, in language that is easy to understand, despite some noticeable errors. They ask questions to develop an understanding of the situation and the potential outcomes of suggestions. However, the structures used are limited in relation to the meanings they wish to make, with only limited use of a modal, can, and a tendency to use only the present tense to describe past events and future tense to discuss hypothetical events. Student A uses present tense for all events, but Student B uses will to indicate future and hypothetical events. The students ask questions and make comments with generally well-formed structures including questions, e.g. Do you have sisters or brothers? However, they both make errors with their use of prepositions, such as How about if Mr Rob is angry to me? He will be happy to you again, though sometimes Student B is more correct, He angry with you today but …

Student B uses can as a modal making suggestion, as in You can ask you brother to look after your grandma. The students also use conjunctions like but and so to connect their ideas, e.g. So you can tell you big brother to look after your grandmother.

The interaction between these students is relaxed and natural, with frequent and natural turn-taking and responses to what the other says. Student B gives herself some time to think before making her final suggestion, by commenting on the situation, That’s very …interesting! These students have clear pronunciation, and the varied pitch and intonation of both students make them sound engaged and interested in the conversation. Their speech is clearly articulated.

The marked criteria sheet shows that both students meet many criteria at level 2 of performance, while Student A meets some criteria at levels 1 and Student B meets some at level 3.

The students’ language use in this task is consistent with Level C2, Victorian Curriculum F-10 EAL, with Student B being further along this level than Student A.

TEAL Oral Task 18 – Criteria sheet – Sample 2

Sample 3

Biographical information

Year level: Year 10 (both students)

Home language: Student A – Arabic

Home language: Student B – Persian (Farsi)


These Year 10 students are able to discuss the situation and make suggestions with some precision, despite some noticeable gaps in their English language knowledge and skills. Student A begins with a long and complex turn in describing the problem. He has some difficulty with prepositions and uses only simple present at this stage, for example, they say to me. He is able to ask a question using a modal can you help me with…, which may be formulaic than an indication that he has good control over modals, but he uses a well-formed, relatively complex structure to state the problem, with only the omission of an auxiliary verb, I’m the only one who going to miss it. Later in the conversation he uses simple past to report his conversation with the teacher, showing he can use this tense, despite him not using it earlier.

Student B has better control of structures than Student A. He uses past tense to describe his previous experience more consistently, Last year I had the same problem.., and using modals in making a suggestion, I think you should ask him to change the date and time. He goes on to use a question structure to make a suggestion, Have you thought about..?

Both students interact fluently in their discussion, responding to each other, nodding and giving feedback that they are involved and interested in the discussion. Their pronunciation is generally clear, although there is still a noticeable influence of the phonology of their first languages on their English pronunciation. They use intonation to show their engagement in the task and add interest to their conversation. While both students are generally intelligible, Student A is sometimes a little hard to understand, he pronounces hard pronounced like hadparents sounds like barents, and when he seems to mean to say its not possible, he makes a slip and says not impossible.

The marked criteria sheet shows that both students meet many criteria at level 2 of performance, while student B has better control over grammatical structures than student A.

The students’ language use in this task is consistent with Level C3, Victorian Curriculum F-10 EAL.

TEAL Oral Task 18 – Criteria sheet – Sample 3

Sample 4

Biographical information

Year level: Year 8 (both students)

Home language: Chinese (both students)


These two students have a longer conversation in which they work together to understand the problem, explore ideas for solutions, and to make comments on aspects of the situation and solutions. While they both communicate effectively, Student A is not as accurate in the way she structures and pronounces what she says.

Student A begins by stating the problem. Her meaning is quite clear, but there are some gaps in the structures she uses, such as the way she introduces the problem of the timing of the concert. At times some lack of clarity in her pronunciation makes it hard to be sure about the accuracy of her grammar.

Student B uses a wider range of structures than Student A in reporting his previous experience, making suggestions, and asking questions to clarify the situation. He uses modals to convey a range of meanings:

Modals of degree: could should and would they like it?

Adverbs of modality: Maybe, you could do…

Modals in questions: Wouldn’t your mum want…

Modal can to make suggestions: Can you tell the teacher, and You can just pull yourself out of it

Modal to make a comment: The teacher should understand.

This suggests he has a good grasp of modals and their uses. But there are still some errors in other features of his language, especially inconsistencies in the use of simple past to describe previous experiences e.g. What else you can do? He got really angry with me because I pull out, and, My grandmother got sick and I have to … He makes some other errors I got to missed out on it.

The students engage in an active, interactive and animated discussion. They work together to expand their ideas at different stages of the conversation. They are quite intelligible, but a careful listening reveals that Student A sometimes omits sounds or short grammatical words, and their linking of sounds could be further improved. They use varied intonation effectively, to convey interest and attitudes in their conversation.

The marked criteria sheet shows that both students meet many criteria at level 3 of performance.

The students’ language use in this task is consistent with Level C3, Victorian Curriculum F-10 EAL.

TEAL Oral Task 18 – Criteria sheet – Sample 4

Sample 5

Biographical information

Year level: Year 8 (both students)

Student A (left of screen)

Home language: Tagalog

Student B (right of screen)

Home language: Mongolian


These students have a lengthy conversation, in which a range of options are explored, and the priorities of Student A are discussed. In describing the problem, making suggestions, and exploring the options a wide range of grammatical structures and vocabulary are used. These include a range of tenses, ways of framing questions, making suggestions and comments, expressing consequences, and the effects of potential actions. Both students use a range of adverbs to add clarity and precision to their discussion. They discuss a wide range of meanings with only minor grammatical and occasional errors of style, e.g. in seven or six years, which is instantly self-corrected.

Their interaction is animated and fluent, and they respond to the ideas and opinions they present. Their pronunciation is very clear, sounds are clearly produced and well-linked. They use varied intonation, to show interest and engagement in the conversation, as well as a hint of frustration from Student B when Student A is resistant to adopting his suggestions!

The marked criteria sheet shows that both students meet many criteria at level 4 of performance of the task.

The students’ language use in this task is consistent with Level C4, Victorian Curriculum F-10 EALS.

TEAL Oral Task 18 – Criteria sheet – Sample 5

Using the assessment to improve learning


  1. Using the right tense for the right purpose

Explain that In English different tenses get used for different purposes. In this task, the main purposes were to:

  • describe a current problem
  • describe something that happened in the past
  • make suggestions
  • talk about what might happen in the future.

Remind students of the tenses and the tense forms used to achieve these purposes (simple present, simple past, and either simple present for likely future events, or modals for hypothetical future events).

As a result of this review, ask the students to review the video or audio recording of their role play and complete the following table, filling in all the verbs they used for each purpose in table 3. Ask the students to complete column 2, Examples of verbs to use, before they view or listen to their role play:



Examples of verbs to use

Verbs I used in my role play

Describe a current problem  
Describe a past event  
Make suggestions  
Describe a likely future event  
Describe a hypothetical or unlikely future event  



Peer reflection

  1. Degrees of emphasis in giving advice

Discuss or review with students the degree of emphasis in the following modal verbs used to give advice:

  • You can, You might, You could, You should, You must; and  
  • Can you…? Could/n’t you …? Might you…? Should/n’t you…?
    • You could also discuss situations in which it is appropriate to be gentle, moderate or strong in giving advice – depending on the relationship of the speakers, and the situation.

Put the students in pairs:

    • Ask them to review each other’s video (or audio recording) and to comment on the degree of emphasis they used (weak, moderate, and strong) used in their role plays
    • Ask them to role play their conversations again, this time being either more or less forceful in the way they give their advice, compared to their original role play.
  1. Using adverbs to emphasise or moderate what you are saying
    • Discuss the way adverbs like veryreally, actually, can be used to give emphasis to something that is being said. Brainstorm other adverbs that might add emphasis.
    • Discuss the way adverbs like a little, just, perhaps can be used to moderate something that is being said. Brainstorm other adverbs that might moderate what is being said.
    • Discuss situations when either emphasising or moderating what may be said might be desirable.
    • Put the students in pairs, and ask them to repeat their role play, using adverbs like those they have been discussing, to add emphasis or moderate what they are saying.


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