The Hot Seat

by Helene J. Uchida

“Hot Seat” Questioning

Teen Topics
  1. Friends
  2. Family
  3. School
  4. Self-image
  5. Hobby

America’s most popular novelist for adolescents, Judy Blume, states the four topics that interest teens the most are: friends, school, family and self-image. (I would like to add hobbies to this list.) I think these interests are the same in Japan. Yet how much of the English we teach in junior high is actually geared to these topics? I fear too little.

From my observation, adolescents want to talk to each other, not the teacher. So why not take advantage of this desire and turn it into an English speaking activity? The following activity generates questions and corresponding answers among teens so they can talk to each other.

“Hot Seat” Method

hot seat illustration

Students sit in a semi-circle. Everyone stands and one student sits in the middle, in the “hot seat.” The students have to ask the student in the “hot seat” a simple question based on friends, family, school, self-image or hobbies. Once a student has asked a question and the student in the “hot seat” has answered, then the standing student who asked the question can sit down. This continues until all the students are seated. The role of the teacher is facilitator, meaning he or she encourages the students, corrects them or helps them ask a question when needed. (Actually, I usually sit behind the students, and they very often forget that I am there.) This activity is non-threatening and rather fun for them. Some suggested questions might be: When’s your birthday? What time do you wake up each day? What’s your favorite fruit? How many people are there in your family? What kind of music to you like? How tall are you? After all the students have asked a question, another student, depending upon time, can be selected to sit in the “hot seat” with all the students standing and asking questions again. Then I can leave the classroom, make myself a cup of tea and return to find them all speaking English to each other during my brief absence. It works! But you have to be consistent on the following points:

  1. Make it clear of what is expected of them.
  2. Teach them how to ask and answer questions.
  3. Let them know you respect them and think they can do it without you.
  4. Marvel at their ability to interact with each other.
  5. Expand upon their questions and answered once they have mastered the initial ones.
  6. Remember your role is as facilitator and enabler. Give them the goods and they can deliver. They can do it!