ESL Games in the Classroom: Hot Potato

13:42 Amy Lou 0 Comments

Do your students need to review stuff you've taught them?

Play 'Review Hot Potato' - my favourite (and students favourite) in-class game.


I'm hesitant to share this game with you all, because it's that good and I almost want to keep it just for me. My students ask for it pretty much every day. I don't play it every day (to keep it super desirable), but I do use it often.

Why I love Hot Potato:

Hot Potato is great for getting individual students to ask and answer questions and for them to practice being quiet when you countdown: 3, 2, 1, shwoop! *silence*. It's a useful way to encourage students to give creative answers and have fun with the English language.

What you'll need:

- Music
- Two balls
- Students sat in a circle on their chairs
- I usually have something on PowerPoint slides to prompt them, e.g....



... or you can ask them questions on the fly, or have them think up their own questions, as a very handy filler.

Before the game starts, explain it to your students:

Hold up the ball / balls and ask what it is.

"A ball?" - "Nope."
"A yellow ball?" - "No."

Tell them that they're actually potatoes. If it's a purple or green ball then it's an ALIEN potato. It's a very hot alien potato. It's so hot, that you can't hold on to it for very long at all. Ouch! Ouch!



When the music stops, the potatoes are magically cold. The person holding the cold potato must stand up. Everyone else must be silent. If they speak, they too will stand. Be very firm about this. There is one other, very important, rule, which you must say in a very serious voice:

"Do not throw the potato. If I see you throw the potato, I will throw you... out of the window!"


How to play

Give the the potatoes to the students and play the music.

Students pass one potato in one direction and the other in the other direction. If they start changing directions, stop them even if it's funny at first, because it can get out of hand and quickly becomes extremely not funny. 

Stop the music at random (or at least pretend that it's random!). The person holding a ball stands up. If it's between two students, quickly have them do rock-paper-scissors quickly to decide who stands.

Once you have the students standing, countdown: three, two, one, shwoop! Any students that are still talking stand up to join the potato-holders.

Have one standing student ask, and one standing student answer:

Teacher:     Ploy, question, Gun, answer.
Ploy:           What is Mr Fluffy doing?
Gun:           He's sitting in a boat.

If you have extra students standing up because they were talking, get them to give a different answer.

Teacher:       Beam, a different answer please.
Beam:           He's rowing to Brazil.

How to get the unenthusiastic students involved and loving it

Most students love love love this game. Only a few don't like it, but if you find out a bit about their interests you can usually get them involved. Perhaps the bored boy in the corner is obsessed with Minecraft? Put a few Minecraft-themed questions in there to keep his interest!


Teacher:              Baitong, question, Khota, answer.
Baitong:               What did Mr Fluffy do last night?
Khota:                  He played Minecraft.

Let me know how it goes!

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