How to improve Hotseating to achieve better learning in your lesson.

Improve Hotseating to achieve better and more focused learning in your lesson.

Hotseating is a go-to activity for many teachers, not only in Drama but in many other subjects too. Hotseating is a great way of helping students explore and get into a character. It encourages them to ask engaging and challenging questions about a character. And it requires students to think fast to get a relevant and developed answer.

Yet, I have a problem with Hotseating. I like it and hate it roughly the same amount. My issue with it is that whilst it is a great learning tool, it’s also a very long activity that rarely engages everyone.

Over the years of teaching, I’ve been experimenting with this simple activity. I’ve found some more interesting, quicker and meaningful ways of Hotseating to share with you.

Make your intentions clear

Have a discussion about the purpose and aims of the activity beforehand. Decide on a focus for the Hotseating and make sure that everyone is clear on that. It could be to help one student get to know their character they are performing further. It could be for everyone in the group to get to know the motivations of a character they are studying in a play. Or it could be to focus on a specific moment of a play and analyse a characters emotional reaction to that moment.

Give everyone roles

One way is to have the ‘audience’ in a role too. Such as taking on the role of a newspaper journalist and interviewing a celebrity or criminal etc… This means that the rest of the class receive some sort of context to ask their questions and this context gives them a framework to put their question into. That framework allows them to be more specific in their question rather than asking the usual ‘what happened’ or ‘what did you have for breakfast?’.

Whilst this also makes sure everyone have a question (in theory), it doesn’t mean they are going to be proactive to ask their question. So you could choose who is going to ask a question, or make it random by using a random name picker.

Prepare the character before the Hotseating

For Hotseating to be meaningful the answers to the questions have to be useful and relevant to the development of the character, either by developing backstory or exploring the emotional reactions of a character. To help this the student entering into the hot seat needs to have a very strong idea about these things before it takes place. This is so that, firstly, the student giving the answers can elaborate on their responses and develop deeper material and, secondly, it can help guide the questioners to ask the right questions.

Ask the right questions

Before you start, have a discussion with the class a focus for the questioning. Share all your knowledge about the character so that the students asking questions can ask ones that are going to develop existing knowledge rather than asking to confirm someone we already know. It is worth getting the students who are asking the questions to write them down first. Get them to have a line of inquiry to follow, to make notes on and to ask follow up questions. This will also push the student in the hot seat to give more detailed and developed answers.

Group characters together

The focus of Hotseating needs to be on the value of the answers to those involved, so there has to be something meaningful to learn for everyone in the class. You can do this is by grouping all the same characters together. This is an effective way of developing knowledge and information about a character because everyone in the group is already is an expert in that character.

Have a panel of characters

You could have a panel of characters for the audience to ask questions to. This allows for more discussion and debate to occur between characters. It also gives characters a right to reply to the statements made by other characters.

Hotseat everyone!

A great way of speeding up Hotseating is for everyone in the class to be in the Hotseat and the teacher to ask them questions. I like this way of working with Hotseating. The answers the students give tend to be more developed than in the traditional Hotseating format.

In this form, everyone has to give an answer to at least one question. For students who are struggling, they have got answers from other students as a model for how they might answer. As a teacher, you can also change the level of question to match the ability of the student.

To conclude, what you do with Hotseating, a key to its success is making sure that everyone knows why we are doing it and what are expecting to get from it. This way everyone knows what they need to do, whether it is to ask specific, targeted questions or give well developed and useful answers. There is no point highlighting what we already know about the character. It has to interrogate = the character to reveal new information that students can then use to inform their performance.

Do you do anything innovative with Hotsteating that you can share with everyone? I’d love it if you could share your ideas in the comments box below.

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