We start with a review of prepared notes for a few reasons:
1.) The purpose of the activity is to develop character inferences over time (CCSS RL9-10.3) and it helps for students to get their minds tuned back in to the characters involved.
2.) A few minutes to review helps give me the chance to agitate and encourage the students so as to foster a sense of expectation for what will unfold when the dramatic hotseat begins.
3.) Such an opening episode of class also helps me to reinforce high expectations because I am checking notes for completeness, and I expect the discussion event--in this case, the hotseat--to be the culmination of the days of preparation that came beforehand.
In general, it's important for students who are on the hotseat to feel a sense of expectation and comfort with the questions that will be coming at them. I indicate students who already have a degree of confidence to sit on the hotseat, which in reality is just a chair that is front and center in the classroom. Before ascending to the hotseat, however, students prepare each other. That is, those students who have selected the character of Mr. P all sit together and share the questions that they expect to ask; that way, the student who actually sits on the hotseat is ready to answer. These actually can be semi-rehearsed questions and answers, and that is ok, because the rest of the class will ask follow-up questions that will cause the speaker on the hotset to go deeper in his or her inferences of the character represented.
As the students each ascend to the hotseat, the teacher moderates questions from his or her prep group and then follow-up questions from the class. The goal is to make sure that all students are engaged in the discussion that is unfolding (SL9-10.1) and more importantly for this early time of the year, that they are rehearsing coming to class with developed notes and ideas that they are ready to share (SL.9-10.1a). The discussion itself should go deeper and deeper into character insight and thematic development, as it of course will, because the range of follow-up questions typically focus on students asking "Why..." "Why did you say that?" "Why did you do that?" etc. The student on the hotseat needs to think highly inferentially about the character and engage the class with his or her answer. As a result, the hotseat discussion is entertaining as well.