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Play "Hot Seat" to Understand Character Motivation

written by: Julia Bodeeb • edited by: Wendy Finn • updated: 1/5/2012

Have students role play to help understand character motivation. This fun activity gives students a chance to practice public speaking and character analysis -- even the shy ones!

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    Analyze This

    Literary characters are often complex and their words and actions are open to differing analyses. In a classroom of students there may be many differing opinions about the intent of a character and whether the character is good or evil. This ensures literary analysis will always be fascinating! Students tend to love the game of Hot Seat. They even sometimes scream when a teacher announces it will occur later in the week. This lesson is a sure way to get the class to pay rapt attention and participate fully in the activity.

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    Begin Hot Seat

    Playing Hot Seat is a fun way to help students form their opinions about the behavior of characters. This game begins by the teacher informing the class that they will play Hot Seat later in the week and asking students to create a list of five to ten questions to ask a set number of characters. This work may be done in class or as homework. Each question should seek to help understand why the character was involved in certain actions or why they said specific quotes. Questions may also be broad based such as asking a character if they are good or evil or what their life philosophy is.

    On the day of the activity the teacher will place one chair at the front of the room. This is the “hot seat." Then the teacher will either call on students or ask for volunteers to come up to the hot seat. I like to do this activity as an extra credit assignment near the end of the marking period. It is a fun way to see which students are brave enough to volunteer to come to the front of the class. I also give extra points for students who raise their hands to ask questions of the person in the hot seat. This activity encourages students to get practice for speeches. The hot seat activity builds self confidence and is typically a lot of fun for all involved.

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    Assume the Character

    The person at the front of the class in the hot seat assumes the identity of a character from a novel, play or short story. The class then asks the character questions and the student in the hot seat answers in character. It is fascinating to see the students change from themselves to a character that has a distinct personality.

    The class asks questions of the character to seek understanding of their actions. This activity is truly exciting when the character has been complex and seeking to find the truth out about their world as they mature. It is a fascinating activity with the characters from “Hamlet," “Julius Caesar", “A Doll’s House," and most modern novels.

    I like to give enough time for several students to play a specific character so the class gets varied opinions about who the character is. It is very interesting to see what questions the students ask the character. This lesson tends to have very high levels of student participation. Sometimes I will also ask the character questions to hone in on the theme of the work or the understanding of character motivation.

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    The Hot Seat is a wonderful activity to spur interest in literature. Most students enjoy it greatly and ask: “When are we doing the Hot Seat again?"

    If you wish to prepare a "sample" lesson videotape to use as a training tool for student teachers the Hot Seat lesson is fabulous. Students get very involved in this lesson and their enthusiasm will show new teachers the joy of teaching.