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Activity 2 - Being in punishment


To experience an aspect of life in an institution.

Curriculum area(s)

  • Year 5 upwards
    • English
    • ICT
    • Drama

Suitable for adults with learning disabilities?


Learning outcome(s)

Students have an insight into life in an highly structured authoritarian environment.

Time required

15 minutes


  • Old toothbrushes; one per student
  • White coat/nurse uniform for tutor


  1. Hand out toothbrushes. Tell people to kneel and scrub the floor with toothbrush for 5 minutes. No talking. No slacking. If anyone stops work tell them they will be ‘in punishment’ – solitary confinement, only bread and water – for 24 hours.
  2. Swap roles so that students get the opportunity to be the one in charge.
  3. Discuss with students how this felt; their emotions.

Ideas for follow up

Activity 2/Resource 1 - Memories of punishment in the institution

Script a discussion between patients and a nurse about the punishment and act it out, in pairs. Find out about other punishments experienced by people in institutions.

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About the Group

If you woud like to get in touch with the Social History of Learning Disability (SHLD) Research Group, please contact:

Liz Tilley 
Chair of the Social History of Learning Disability (SHLD) Research Group
School of Health, Wellbeing and Social Care
Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies
The Open University
Walton Hall
Milton Keynes

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