Facilitation Quick Tips: Hot Potato

Facilitation Quick Tips: Hot Potato

By Rebecca Shemesh | July 30, 2015
ETR Consultant Trainer

This activity can be easily adapted for use as an opener, energizer or closer. It gets participants up and moving, interacting with each other and rocking to your own special playlist. It’s a great way to build excitement at the beginning of a training day, help participants reinforce learning in the middle, or consolidate learning and intentions at the end. Highly adaptable and lots of fun.

Title: Hot Potato

Setting: Appropriate for in-person trainings


  • Energize with music!
  • Reinforce learning
  • Apply information
  • Develop group cohesion

Best Used:

  • As an opener to review content and concepts from a previous training day.
  • As an energizer to reinforce learning.
  • As a closer to reflect on learning and apply information.

Materials Needed:

  • Music—something upbeat and energizing.
  • A hat or basket that can hold index cards.
  • Index cards prepared with questions or sentence stems (see below).


  • Prepare index cards by writing one question or sentence stem (an unfinished statement) on each card. Choose items that correspond to your training activity (opener, energizer, closer) and content.

    For example:

Sentence Stems:

  • Something I already know about today’s content is…
  • Something I am looking forward to learning or doing in today’s training…
  • One thing that struck me from the training session yesterday…
  • Something I learned from this training session that I plan to use in my work…
  • Something I learned from this training that I want to share with my colleagues…


  • Can you name two evaluation results from the original research conducted on this curriculum that you can share with a school leader?
  • Can you describe the steps to answering sensitive questions?


  1. Ask participants to sit or stand in a circle.
  2. Explain that the rules of the children’s game “Hot Potato” apply to this activity. The music will start and participants will pass the hat (or basket) around the circle. When the music stops, so does passing the hat. Whoever is left holding the hat (or the last person to touch it) takes an index card, reads it aloud, and answers the question (or completes the sentence stem) for the group.
  3. Remind participants that they have the right to pass, but encourage them to try their luck if a question is challenging. Tell them they can also use a “phone a friend” option to ask for help from someone in the group.
  4. Start up the music and take the group through the first round.
  5. After each question is answered, start the music again and proceed with passing the hat.
  6. Continue as time remains or until all questions have been answered.
  7. Debrief the activity by answering any additional questions from the group or clarifying any information.

We always love to hear about how these activities go. Be sure to let us know about any of the ways you adapt this exercise and how it works for you in your trainings.

Rebecca Shemesh is a consultant trainer with ETR’s Professional Development Team. She can be reached at rshemesh114@gmail.com.


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