hot potato

One fun way I’ve found to get my students to focus on form is to play hot potato.

You know, that game we play as kids where no one wants to be the man with the ball when the buzzer sounds?


My students have a very hard time forming questions. They mix tenses, swap verb and subject, forget the subject, forget the verb, pretty much every way one could mash up a question they manage to do it.

So, what I do is get them in a circle. I take my trusty tennis ball and begin. Something like…

1) Seung Min, what have you eaten today?

Then I bounce the ball to Seung Min.

2) Seung Min repeats the time, then chooses a student, and asks a question.

today. Min Ji, Where have you traveled this year?

3) Min Ji repeats the whole process.

this year. John, Who have you spoken to in this class?

We play with the timer set for a minute. The student with the ball in their hand when it buzzes is out. When the group has a winner you can play again, or change the verb tense you’re focusing on. In the beginning I hold my hand up until the student gets the form for their question correct. They aren’t allowed to pass until my hand goes down.

Once my students get good enough (It takes awhile. It seems to be extremely difficult for a surprisingly long time) I switch the tenses after every one minute clip. Or students can choose their own tense and the student following cannot repeat that tense.

The game focuses the students on their form. It also lets them hear that form repeatedly without being dull. By having students state the time in their question they begin to understand the relationship between time and verb tense. The repetition of time also requires students to listen carefully.

All in all, it is a highly variable “game” that a T can do as a recycling activity, ice breaker, review, or pretty much whatever they like.


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