25:Hot Seat

The Hot Seat is a cooperative learning strategy that fosters learning from predictions.  In hot seat, students adopt the persona of a character in literature or history then answer questions from the character’s perspective.

Step by Step: Hot Seat

  1. Divide the class into groups of 3 to 5 students.
  2. Each student selects or is assigned a character whose persona he or she will adopt.
  3. Group members create questions based on their understanding of the story or text to be asked of the other characters in the group.
  4. Then, in turn, each character responds to question posed by other members of the group. A two minute time limit is suggested.
  5. As a clarification strategy, students might write down their predictions and points of confusion and use these as a basis for the questions they have for other members of the group. By focusing their questions toward specific characters represented by group members, students also increasingly bring to bear what they know about the characters to help them reduce their uncertainty about the content.
  6. While this strategy is very useful in the study of fiction, it is adaptable to other content areas, as well. During or after reading an appropriate text about the U. S. Civil War battle at Antietam, students might engage in a hot seat activity to examine the perspectives of President Lincoln, President Davis of the Confederate South, Confederate General Robert E. Lee, and Union General George McClellan.  In science, students could assume roles of a stem cell researcher, a politician in favor of such research, a politician who opposes the research, and a person who might benefit from stem cell research.

Sitting in the Hot Seat requires a student to experience a work of literature or historical perspective from a different point of view, thus assisting students to clarify or refine what they know through social interaction. To facilitate implementation of this strategy, consider these modifications:

  1. Allow students to work in groups to brainstorm possible questions. Their questions might focus on recalling the story or on speculating about a character’s emotions or motivation to act as they do.
    2. Put students into “expert” character groups so they can share their ideas about characters.
    3. Use puppets, character masks, and living murals to liven up the activity.

Applications and Examples

Ms. Marla Green uses Hot Seat to help her students understand the characters in the novel Bud, Not Buddy (Curtis, 2002). In her own words:

The characters that are the focus for this hot seat are:  Bud, Toddy Amos and Mrs. Amos.  Students will take on the roles of each character in a small group then a whole class discussion follows. We will have several completely different views.  Through Hot Seat, students will be able to think about predictions they made about Mrs. Amos’ statement: “Lord knows I have been stung by my own people before.  But take a good look at me because I am one person who is totally fed up with you and your ilk.  I do not have time to put up with the foolishness of those members of our race who do not want to be uplifted.” (Curtis, 2002, pp.14-15) or why Todd beats the heck out of Bud.

Curtis, C. P. (2002) Bud, Not Buddy. New York, NY: Aladdin.

Marla Green, Kelso School District, Kelso, Washington.

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