Hot Potato: an ESL Speaking Game for Kids

Hot potato ESL speaking game for kids
Hot Potato: A really fun ESL speaking game for kids

Skills: Speaking
Time: 5-10 minutes
Level: Beginner, up to 11
Materials: Flashcards, timer, “potato” (an object for students to pass around)

This is a simple vocabulary review game, spiced up with a timer. There are plenty of phone app timers, but a kitchen timer works well. To play, start the potato, which can be a white board eraser, ball, or any lightweight, easily-seen object, moving around the class from student to student. If there is not a practical way to play in a circle, have a contingency for the last student getting the potato back to the first student, such as pausing the timer.

When the timer goes off, the student holding the potato is shown a flash card. If they can correctly identify the word, they stay alive, but if they are wrong, they are out and must sit down. Vary the length of time for the timer, generally 5-15 seconds, with an occasional longer or shorter spell.

A variation is to have two potatoes which look different. The person holding potato A must ask the person holding potato B a question about the flash card, and that student must answer. For example:

A: Do you like oranges?
B: Yes, I do/No, I don’t.

Teaching Tip:

If the class is large, this can be a very long game and the students who are out will lose interest quickly. So, I would break large classes into groups of 10-15. All groups use the same timer and flash card—I simply say, “Three, two, one,” and the students holding potatoes all say their answers together.

Like this activity? There are 38 more just like it in this book: 39 No-Prep/Low-Prep ESL Speaking Activities: For Kids (7+)

Procedure:

  1. If possible, move students into a circle. Simply have them stand around the edge of the classroom. If the class is very large, divide into groups of 10-15 and make the appropriate number of circles.
  2. Begin moving a “potato” around the circle.
  3. Set a timer for a random (brief) amount of time. Five to fifteen seconds is good, with an occasional shorter or longer time.
  4. When the timer goes off, show a flash card (or PowerPoint image).
  5. The student holding the potato must correctly identify the image or sit down. If playing with more than one group, count 3,2,1, and have them answer together. Have a demonstration round if your class is playing for the first time.
  6. The winner is the last person standing.

This ESL speaking activity for kids is from this book, available on Amazon:

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