SOS: Hot Potato

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Hot Potato

PDF and Vignette Version

SOS Big IdeaProviding students an opportunity to think critically and ask higherlevel questions of each other in a fun environment leads to a more engaged classroom. “When students formulate questions, they become actively involved in learning.” (Marzano)  Using Hot Potato while posing questions pertaining to a Discovery Education resource makes this difficult skill more engaging and less threatening. Students play in teams and use a soft ball to bounce questions back and forth while earning points based on the level of complexity.

SOS StepsMaterials: Discovery Education video, image or text resource, index cards, Bloom’s/Webb’s questioning grid, index cards, soft ball

  1. Select a Discovery Education video resource pertinent to the unit of instruction.
  2. Have students watch, look at, or read the resource, as a class or in small groups.
  3. Divide the class into 2 teams.
  4. Students have 5 minutes to create questions pertaining to the video. The higherlevel the questions they have, the more points their team can earn. (Have them use the questioning chart to help develop higherlevel questions.)
  5. Have students sit on their desks.
  6. Instruct them to have a team member throw the soft ball to the opposing team as he or she asks the question and states the question level.
  7. The student who catches the ball either answers or uses a lifeline (asks buddy). The student who threw the ball determines whether the response was adequate. (The teacher may need to weigh in.)
  8. The Referee decides whether the level of the question met the requirements and how many points to award.
  9. The student who answered the question now tosses the ball to the opposing team and asks a question.
  10. After 1015 minutes, the teacher can wrap it up and do a general clarification and discussion.


SOS Sum It Up

This activity encourages students to develop higherlevel questions. Not only do they have to come up with the question, they also need to know the answer. This puts some of the responsibility of learning on the students, and they take more pride and ownership in the process. Students gain a deeper understanding if they formulate the question and determine the answer, rather than just answering teachergenerated questions.

SOS More Ideas


  • Build in additional guidelines for answering and asking questions. For example, instead of a single life line, the teacher could offer different options (team huddle, call a neighbor’s classroom, ask the principal).
  • Use a system to subtract points for the use of life lines.
  • Graph the types of questions and analyze the data.

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  1. Paula said:

    Great activity! Can you link the question sheet you referred to?

  2. Susan Bowdoin said:

    We’re glad you like it! You’ll find the questioning grid in the PDF version of this SOS. The link to the PDF is right above the light bulb that is labeled BIG IDEA.

  3. Ruth R. said:

    I tried this activity with my 8th grade History students and they loved it. My students all have a learning disability of some capacity and critical thinking skills are a huge part of what we work on together. This activity made critical thinking fun and engaging. I did modify it for students that have physical incapacities so my students ended up sitting on the floor and just rolling a ball (hot potato) to each other’s groups while asking the questions. Overall, this activity worked so well that I have incorporated it into my weekly activities. Thank you!!!!!

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