This activity encourages deep engagement with a text by asking students to take on the role of a character, historical figure, or other entity, and to respond to questions as this alternate persona. It requires students to identify with the characteristics, intentions, and motivations of their chosen role, and accordingly it encourages a deep experience of the text.

Learning Strategies 

  • Connecting
  • Inferring
  • Visualizing
Experience A Text, Interacting with the Text

Lesson Plan Stages 

  • Investigation
  • Reflection
  • Synthesis

Content Areas 

  • ELA
  • Math
  • Science
  • Social Studies

Learning Strands 

  • Listening
  • Numeracy
  • Reading
  • Speaking
  • Writing

Common Core Instructional Shifts 

  • Balancing Informative and Literary Texts
  • Building Knowledge in the Discipline
  • Text-Based Answers


Identify a text. Identify roles that students could play from the text. Most people choose characters when studying fiction, and people or groups of people when studying history. You could also choose mathematical or scientific entities (prime numbers, pi, a circle, an aortic valve, the planet Mars), countries, or periods of time.

Activity Steps 
  1. The teacher displays a list of possible roles that students could play in this activity.

    Depending on the complexity of the text and your expectations, you may want to ask students to prepare by researching a selection of the possible roles or a single role ahead of time.

  2. Teacher tells student what role she or he will take on in the Hotseat. Students get into groups of two to four and generate a list of questions they would like to ask the character related to the text or storyline, as if the actual person were right there

    You may want to scaffold students’ questions by providing question stems. This can help push the questions to be related to the text as opposed to just “I wonder” questions. For example, stems could include: · “Why did you decide to….” · “What were you thinking when…” · “What do you think about….” · “What were you hoping for when…” · “What would you do if…” · “How did you think up…” · “How do you think you have affected…” · “How do you wish….turned out?”  

    You can also scaffold students’ efforts further by modeling questions that you would have for the character, and/or creating a common list of potential questions.

  3. The teacher models being in the Hotseat. She or he sits in front of the student and announces, “I am__________. What questions do you have for me?” and then tries to answer the questions in the first person from the perspective of that role.

    You may consider giving students a graphic organizer and asking them to record two to three things they noticed during each Hotseat, and two to three questions they have. While students are asking questions, it is a good time to give them feedback on what is a strong question for this activity, one tied to the text in some way that would further their comprehension of the text.

  4. After the model, the students divide into pairs. They take turns each taking on one of the possible roles, and being in the Hotseat while their partner asks them questions. You can also do this in groups or as a whole class.

    Circulate as students are doing this activity, and ask your own questions of the students in the Hotseats. Consider giving students graphic organizers to record their observations and questions from the Hotseats.

  5. The class gets back together as a group, and several students get in the Hotseat in front of the whole class, responding to the class’s questions.

    You can extend this over several days, and ask a different student to prepare for, and then sit in, the Hotseat each day.

  6. Students reflect on their learning either alone or in groups, in speech or in writing.

    They should respond to questions including:

    · How did the Hotseat activity alter your understanding of the person/entity whose role you took on?

    · How did the Hotseat activity affect your level of interest in the text?  How did it affect your understanding of the text?

    · In what other settings might this activity be useful for you?

    Respond to students’ reflections through journal conversations or oral conversation.

Adaptation for the Math Classroom 

The Hot Seat "character" could be a math concept such as prime numbers or linear equations; the person in the hotseat would respond to questions from the perspective of this persona.  Additionally, there are a number of historical mathematical debates that relate to important math concepts and the study of irrational numbers (which ancient Greeks didn't recognize); place value (approached in interesting ways across cultures); or instantaneous rates of change (at the heart of calculus' derivatives and simultaneously "discovered" by Leibniz and Newton) could all be addressed through the Hot Seat.

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