If you’re looking for a fun way to get your students talking, you’ve come to the right place! Keep on reading for all the details about Hot Potato, a quick ESL speaking activity that can be used a warm-up or filler activity.
Hot Potato: A fun ESL speaking game for kids
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.
Or, you could have students make a sentence with the word in it. This works well for superlative adjectives.
Another variation is to use with something like giving directions. You can use your school classroom as a starting location. Then, whoever is holding the potato has to give directions to another location. More details here: Giving Directions ESL.
Teaching Tip for the Hot Potato Game:
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 and Rules for the Hot Potato ESL Speaking Game:
- 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.
- Begin moving a “potato” around the circle.
- Set a timer for a random (brief) amount of time. Five to fifteen seconds is good, with an occasional shorter or longer time.
- When the timer goes off, show a flash card (or PowerPoint image).
- 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.
- The winner is the last person standing.
Do you Like this ESL Speaking Activity?
- Amazon Kindle Edition
- Bolen, Jackie (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 74 Pages - 07/12/2015 (Publication Date)
Yes? Thought so!
This ESL speaking activity for kids is from this book, available on Amazon: 39 ESL Speaking Activities for Kids. The rest of the activities are just like this one in terms of ESL teaching awesome. Fun, engaging and interesting ESL games and activities? Yes please!
Top Quality ESL Activities at your Fingertips
If you want to have almost 40, top-quality ESL speaking activities for kids right at your fingertips, then you’ll need to check this book out. Keep a copy on your office bookshelf to use as a handy reference guide. Or, have it on your tablet for easy access when lesson planning on the go at your favourite coffee shop.
Easy to Use
Oh yeah, do you want to know the best part? These are no-prep, low-prep so you’ll be able to save a ton of time when planning your ESL lessons. Just open the book a few minutes before class starts and you should be able to find something that’ll work with almost any vocabulary or grammar point.
If you want to add some variety to your classes, then check out the book on Amazon. It really is that easy to make your English lessons with kids better:
Where Can I Find an Actual Hot Potato Timer?
If you don’t wan to spend any money, you can easily DIY your own hot potato timer. Students can pass along any object, perhaps even a potato that you bring from home.
And for the timer, you can borrow one of those hourglass timers from another game you may have. You could also use a countdown timer on a computer or cellphone. There are a ton of options out there.
However, if you want to get yourself the official Hot Potato Timer then you’ll definitely need to check it out on Amazon. Does anyone have a budget for teaching supplies that hasn’t been used?! This may be the ultimate purchase!
- Wild, frantic, laugh out loud, electronic musical tater-tossing good time that can be played by the...
- Begin the music and pass the potato, but don't get caught holding the spud when the music stops
- Designed for 2-6-players
- Includes an electronic plush potato stuffed with foam, 13 potato chip cards, 3 AG13/LR44 batteries...
- Recommended for children 4 years of age and older
More Hot Potato for ESL Students
Check out another Hot Potato game variation in this short video below. In reality, there are a ton of different ways to play this fun speaking game for kids (or adults), so get creative because the sky is really the limit in terms of what you can do with the Hot Potato Game.
Have your Say about this ESL Speaking Game for Kids!
What do you think about Hot Potato? Would it work in your ESL classes with children? Leave a comment below and let us know your thoughts. We’d love to hear from you.
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Last update on 2019-11-23 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API