Hot Potatoes: Free Software for Making Materials

As much as I hate to admit it, fall classes are just around the corner, so I have been spending a lot of time recently creating activities for my students. Vocabulary practice has been one area students always seem to want more help with, and I have been focusing on that for a while now.

At the same time, I am making an effort to reduce the amount of paper I use during the course of the semester, which has forced me to explore new ways of doing things. I have always found Discovery Education’s Puzzlemaker handy, but that works best for printable worksheets. Luckily, a coworker recommended Hot Potatoes, and I have been an activity-making fiend ever since.

Hot Potatoes 6 is free software from Half Baked Software that works on Windows, Mac, and Linux operating systems. It just takes a couple minutes to download and install. It looks a bit dated to me and might not be as sleek or sophisticated as what many of us are used to, but once you get going, it is amazing! Think of it as a diamond in the rough. Also, did I mention it is free?

Hot Potatoes, like Puzzlemaker, makes creating various materials a breeze. With Hot Potatoes, you can make flashcard, matching, crossword, cloze, jumbled sentences, and quiz-like exercises. I went through the textbooks for two of my classes and did flashcards, matching activities, and crosswords for each unit in no time at all, but that is not even the best part.

My favorite feature is the ability to create HTML files and SCORM packages. I do not know exactly how these work, but basically it means that I can take what I have created and embed it in our LMS, Desire2Learn (D2L). Now, when students view my courses online, they can do all these fun activities directly in D2L and I do not have to do any printing or copying at all. If you want to print materials out, though, you can do that, too. If you get stuck, the “help” section and/or the website can walk you through anything that does not seem self-explanatory, and the website is filled with all sorts of extra goodies, too, so it is worth looking over.

Of course, there are other things you could use Hot Potatoes for aside from vocabulary practice, but that is where I started, and I cannot wait to explore more. Even if my students have only half as much fun doing these activities as I had making them, it will still be a win overall.

Have you ever used Hot Potatoes before? Tell us all about it or other resources by leaving a comment below.

About Tara Arntsen

Tara Arntsen
Tara Arntsen recently completed her Master's degree in Teaching-TESOL at the University of Southern California. She currently teaches in the Intensive English Program at Northern State University in Aberdeen, South Dakota. She has taught ESOL in China, Japan, and Cambodia as well as online. Her primary interests are communicative teaching methods and the use of technology in education.
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