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Guess Who? Post It!


This is one of those activities that is beautifully simple and therefore very effective and also splendidly transferable to a wide range of contexts, right across the age range and across all kinds of topics. It’s been developed by Joanne Philpott, an AST in Norfolk, for use with A level students studying 20th century Russian history but don’t stop reading here because a) you don’t teach A level or even at secondary level or b) you don’t teach Russian history. Carry on reading and then try to apply it to your contexts. For example, this would be a very good activity to use at the end of KS2 to look back on the people children have studied throughout KS2 or, similarly, at the end of each year of KS3 or at the end of the Key Stage as a whole. And the potential uses at GCSE are legion.

So, over to Jo to describe the activity.

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A formatted version of this activity should print from your browser (omitting this support section).

Or, a WORD version of this activity and accompanying chart can be downloaded:

This activity is based on the ’Hot Seating’ style of model; for more examples of this model, click here.


The use of starter activities is now common place in many classrooms. In an A Level classroom, starters provide multiple functions. For example they can allow for recap of prior learning; checking of homework; introduction of a new skill or topic and assessment of existing knowledge. Starters also allow a teacher to maximise the time for learning opportunities available in the classroom. This activity not only ensures learning begins as soon as the students enter the room but also emphasises the demands of preparatory work.

Through the regular use of preparatory reading, I have endeavoured to encourage my A Level students to take responsibility for their learning. My intention is for them to rely less on me as a provider of knowledge and more as a facilitator to guide and assist the means by which they can discover history. In lessons we analyse the events and address the necessary historical skill required to do this effectively and without preparatory reading this approach would be impossible. This has required a cultural shift for me and the students, and those who fail to keep up very quickly realise their own loss within lessons and in most instances remedy the situation with minimal intervention from their teacher.

The Activity

The whole activity described below takes no more than 10 minutes. Any longer and it gets boring, loses its edge as a refreshing starter and eats into the main activity time.

Step 1

Before the lesson students complete preparatory reading on the key players in the struggle to succeed Lenin in Russia 1924-29.

Step 2

As students enter the room the Russian Leader sheets are on desks [ see below ]. Allow 5 minutes of silent reading of the sheet to refresh and extend knowledge.

Step 3

a) Turn over the Leader sheets so they can no longer be read and explain the task to students. They are to work in groups of about 6. [Some students may opt out if they are in a large group or work on this activity as a whole class.]

b) The teacher gives one student a sticky label with the name of one of the six key players (see chart for six individuals) written on it. The student is not allowed to see the name and must stick the label on his/her forehead in order that class mates can see who they are.

c) The student then has to ‘Guess Who?’ he/she is by asking a given number of yes/no answer questions of their class mates. I allow them between three and five questions with fewer if this is being used a revision activity.

If he/she guesses correctly he/she may choose the next recipient to play.

d) Now repeat with another key player and then another, depending on how many you wish to cover. You do not have to do all the leaders and certainly don’t simply use all six names in sequence as then students will play by process of elimination and not by effective questioning and knowledge. You can cheat – by repeating one of the key players when students aren’t expecting repetition! Remember that 10 minutes is a good maximum time to spend on this activity.

Russian Leader Sheets








Connection to Lenin

Close to Lenin but opposed the Brest-Litovsk Treaty

Was in exile with Lenin, but criticised his attitude in 1917


Always supported Lenin’s line, Lenin disliked his growing power within the party


Close to Lenin from the beginning, was with him in exile from 1903-17 editing papers

Party Popularity

Declining due to his enthusiasm for NEP

Strong in his own political district, but not at party level

Seen as a moderate, but a good administrator

Extremely popular within the party

Had the backing of most of the Red Army, few in the Politburo

Strong in his own political district, but not at party level

Powers of patronage



Appointed people within his department

Vast – appointed all the officials in the provinces and inspected all Government departments; he also appointed all party positions

Had control of appointments within the Army


Service to the party

Played a major part in the October revolution; editor of Pravda from 1918

Controlled the Moscow Soviet before and after the October Revolution; Lenin’s deputy in Sovnarkom

Escaped seven times from exile in Siberia, always stayed active

He was an active revolutionary throughout 1905-17

Headed the Petrograd Soviet and helped it to take power in October 1917

Always active, but did not like the official line in October and criticised it openly

Marxist theory

Lenin said he was ‘the party’s best theoretician’ – supported NEP


Considered to be on the left of the Party, wanted much more equality in the Party

Did not have a good reputation as a theoretician

Probably the closest in USSR to the true Marxist model, a very strong speaker

Was against Kulaks and USSR’s isolation, wanted to build links with other countries

Links with other members of the Politburo

Mostly isolated due to support for NEP

In 1922 he formed a triumvirate with Stalin and Zinoviev to block trotsky’s power


Anti-Trotsky triumvirate 1922


Anti-Trotsky triumvirate 1922

Government experience



People’s Commissar for the Interior 1917-18; Chairman of Supreme Council for the National Economy 1918-20 and 1923-4. He was elected to succeed Lenin as PM of USSR

Commissar for Nationalities 1917-; Head of Rabkin; General Secretary of the Party 1922-

Commissar for Foreign Affairs 1917; for War 1918-21; joined Politburo in 1919




1. Conclude with a quick quiz of key players to reinforce knowledge.

2. Follow up the Post-It starter activity by spending the rest of the lesson analysing the Leadership Contest 1924-29. Discussion should be freer flowing as their knowledge base of key players is secure and precise.


  1. How would you apply this activity in other contexts e.g.
  • within KS2, perhaps to make links across the years or a way of looking back at KS2 History from Y6
  • to conclude a year’s work at KS3
  • a unit of work at GCSE?
  1. Having done this kind of activity once or twice how would you structure a task where students take responsibility for creating a similar activity? E.g. they have to write up the information sheet in the style of the Russian leaders sheet.
  2. Review the range of starters you use in A level lessons as an individual and across your department. Does a clear pattern emerge that’s helpful for developing students skills and understanding or would this be a worthwhile issue for discussion at a departmental meeting to co-ordinate approaches effectively?

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Constructive feedback is always welcome, particularly anything that will help other teachers.

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The Activity