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Hot Potatoes

Last term saw a focus on building vocab understanding and use with all students across our senior team based on the results of our PAT Reading Vocab test which weren’t quite as sharp as we wanted.

One could take the traditional route to building vocab which is generally done through the spelling or word study classroom programme but to be honest the old spelling notebook home on Monday and back by Friday for a spelling test with word activities in between does not really engage me or my students (and also is not pedagogically sound according to this).

I immediately thought of an old favourite I have used for the past 7-8 years, Hot Potatoes, a suite of six applications “enabling you to create interactive multiple-choice, short-answer, jumbled-sentence, crossword, matching/ordering and gap-fill exercises for the World Wide Web.”

Hot Potatoes, available for Mac, Windows and Linux is not free (but will be from September 01, 2009) however educational and not-for-profit organisations can apply for and receive a licence for free right now “on the condition that the material you produce using the program is freely available to anyone via the WWW.”

So we have used JMatch, JCloze, JCross and JQuiz this term as part of the literacy/reading programme. Students selected reading material based around our context of ecological sustainability, read and discussed the text, drafted and then created the hot potato quiz, published it to their eportfolio and then it’s ready for others to solve, including teachers, peers and parents.

Here are some to try: JMatch, JCloze & here, JCross and a JQuiz. The last example shows the flexibility of Hot Potatoes to embed web content, such as a YouTube clip, to add interest or for future projects where the quiz questions relate to the embedded content.

As we all know there are plenty of web based tools for creating similar puzzles and quizzes online and then linking to or embedding them in your site. However the degree of customisation you can have with a Hot Potato makes a great all round solution.

Admittedly, it is not without a few issues, the main one being that within the save dialogue box on a Mac, you can’t save directly to a networked folder. This creates an extra step when students save to their folder on the network. Also, making the files available to link from the student blogs, required the files to be FTP’d to a directory on our school’s web site due to our blogging provider, and all file hosting sites that I tried, not allowing .html uploads and links. Neither are big issues, but it would be great to see the saving and exporting directly to a networked folder, or even FTP’ing to a remote server, made possible.

Download it and give it a go.

  1. Regan
    July 15th, 2009 at 19:29 | #1

    Hot Potatoes is one tool that provides that higher order/engaging learning required to motivate the students. It has proven very successful for the kids, particularly for the boys. With regards to the spelling notebook system, you and I have had those conversations in the past and have commented on the little value they provide – it’s great to see that there is research in this area. Children need to learn the strategies and codes of the English language and be exposed to enriching activities, such as the JClozes and JQuizes.

  2. July 18th, 2009 at 18:35 | #2

    I looked this up after I saw it in use in your room and nearly downloaded it. But I will wait for the free date now ;-)

  3. Mari
    February 6th, 2010 at 16:35 | #3

    Would you be so kind as to let me know how did you embeded the hot potato exercise into your web page? I would like to do the same in a google site.
    Thanks!
    Mari

  4. February 8th, 2010 at 19:51 | #4

    @Mari
    Hi Mari,
    First you will need to upload your exported hot potato files to a directory on your web server (blogging tools like WordPress and most other hosted blogs do not allow uploading of HTML files so you will need to upload them to you own web server for storage). I use Cyberduck, a free FTP client for the Mac.
    Next copy the address of the file e.g if I uploaded a file, called quiz.html, to a directory named hotpot, the address would be: http://nickrate.com/hotpot/quiz.html
    Now you have the address you can create a link directly to the file or embed it using an iframe.
    e.g.

    Change the height and width to suit.
    If you were a WordPress users and host the blog yourself this is best and more reliably done using one of the many iframe embedding plug-ins available.

    However since you are a Google sites user, it is a little more complicated. You will still need to upload the exported files to your web server. Uploading these to your google docs account will not work.
    If you have done that then you will need to create a custom google gadget to embed. Instructions are here: http://www.glaciology.net/Home/Miscellaneous-Debris/guide-to-inserting-iframes-or-flash-in-google-sites

  5. Julia
    December 12th, 2011 at 01:47 | #5

    @Nick
    Hello all!
    It seems to have another solution for Google Sites’ users (I haven’t tried yet) in : http://web2teach.blogspot.com/2010/07/hot-potatoes-and-google.html .

    Bye!

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