Number one for English language teachers

Energizers: The hot potato

Level: Pre-intermediate, Intermediate, Upper intermediate, Advanced Type: Extra

There is no particular linguistic aim for this activity but it works well as a brief warmer and to encourage students to use mime and facial expression.


  • Get the students to sit in a large circle (or two or more circles if you have a large class). 
  • Nominate a student in each group as the person who starts the activity off. Their task is to mime passing an imaginary object from hand to hand around the circle. The nature of the object will determine the way in which it is handled and mimed. 
  • A good one to start with is a hot potato, as this would be passed very quickly from hand to hand. You could follow this with a very full glass of water, which would, of course, be passed very carefully from hand to hand. 
  • The are numerous possibilities for objects you can choose to be mimed but ones which produce a particular facial expression or method of holding and passing are the most effective. A few examples are: a baby, a picture of a cute baby.

Tip: As a variation change objects at regular intervals so the students have to concentrate hard. This also increases the pace of the activity.

You can also ask them to guess what the object is (as they handle it or at the end - they may all have different ideas for what they are handling).

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Readers' comments (1)

  • I have used this activity in the past, and one of the things that can make it intresting is to have slips of paper with the invisible items to pass printed or written on them; the students try to guess what the item is to escape from the circle. That last remaining pair of students could have a further task to determine who loses!

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