Punishments through Time
One of the things that surprises non-teachers (politicians, university academics, journalists etc) is that teaching a topic in chronological order is not, in itself, sufficient to embed to sequence of events in students’ brains. Even in SHP Development Studies students have difficulty developing a clear understanding of the chronology of the topic, despite it being taught in chronological order. Examiners report that students struggle to sequence periods and key developments correctly. This suggests that teaching in chronological order is not sufficient. Students need to tackle specific activities designed to develop their chronological knowledge and understanding and to repeat the activities as reinforcement at regular intervals.
This activity can be used as a revision task but, perhaps most valuably, as an introduction to begin building up the required chronological understanding.
After using this activity for the first time, students will have begun to develop an understanding of:
- the sequence of periods
- the most common punishments and when each was used, thus identifying changes and continuities
- why punishments were introduced and discarded.
This exercise recreates the Summary Activity on pp.190-191 of the SHP Crime and Punishment textbook, using the room and students to represent the timeline and punishments.
1. It’s all too easy to assume that students have a clear grasp of chronology from the Roman empire to the present day because that’s what they covered at KS3. However it is important to diagnose what levels of knowledge and understanding they are bringing from KS3 before embarking on the specifics of Crime and Punishment.
This diagnosis can be done with brief exercises that identify whether students can:
- sequence the major periods, (e.g Roman Empire, Saxon England, Middle Ages, Early Modern (Tudor and Stuart) Britain, Industrial Britain, Twentieth Century
- assign dates to these periods
- identify major people and events from these periods
- identify major features of each period e.g. housing, clothing, attitudes and ideas
2. For this activity you will need:
- notices identifying the major periods studied)
- tabards identifying key punishments. It helps to colour-code the tabards i.e. all ‘hanging’ tabards are red, all ‘prison’ are blue etc – this helps pick out the patterns very easily.
How many of these will depend on how many different items you think your class can cope with. Suggestions for Punishment tabards covering the periods since the Middle Ages are as follows:
Prison (3), Fines (4), Mutilation (2), Hanging (4), Pillory and stocks (2), whipping (3), Transportation (2), Community service (1). To these you could add Roman and Saxon punishments.
Slavery, Stoning, Crucifixion
Wergilds, Pillory and stocks, whipping, hanging
Fines, Mutilation, Hanging, Pillory and stocks, whipping
Early Modern Britain
Prison, Fines, Mutilation, Hanging, Pillory and stocks, whipping, Transportation
Prison (hard labour), Fines, Hanging, whipping, Transportation,
Prison (useful work), Fines, Hanging, Community service
1. Create a timeline across the room by asking students to place the period notices in the correct order.
2. Give punishment tabards to individual students and build up a timeline of the key punishments in each period. The result should look like the timeline on pp.190-191 of the SHP Crime and Punishment textbook, depending upon how much detail you wish to include. This can be done in different ways:
- Either focus on periods e.g. start with the Roman Empire and ask students which of them are wearing tabards showing punishments used by the Romans. As this is an introduction the answers are likely to be guesswork so you can try to pull out reasons and then identify the correct answers. These students then take up the appropriate place on the timeline.
- Or start from punishments, choosing the ones they are most likely to get right to develop confidence. So, e.g. ask the student wearing the pillory and stocks tabard where he/she should stand on the timeline and then move on to other punishments.
Now that you have created the pattern of punishments over time you can move onto questions about the pattern. For example, ask students to identify:
- the main continuities
- the changes, when the most changes occurred and so which period they think may have been the most significant in the history of punishments.
- anything that surprises them e.g. the absence of prisons as a punishment in the Middle Ages. Can they suggest any reasons for that? You can work towards the answer by asking what is needed to run prisons today – essentially money and where that comes from.
Notes & Variations
1. This activity makes use of physical representation in a very obvious way. Continuities and changes can be observed very clearly by the pattern of tabards, especially if you have colour-coded the tabards.
Other examples of physicality are:
- make the student wearing the ‘hanging’ tabard in the Twentieth century kneel down instead of standing to show that hanging was abolished part way through the century.
- ask the students wearing ‘transportation’ tabards where they think they might have been transported to. If they don’t know, then tell them that it was America and then Australia and then send them off in different directions to opposite sides of the room. The more dramatic you make this, the more it will stick in students’ minds
2. Recording the pattern - the danger is that once students take off the tabards and return to their seats then the pattern is lost. One way to record the pattern is to get students to step out of their tabards and leave them placed on the floor so everyone can then copy the pattern as a diagram. Alternatively, a digital camera could be used to record the scene and put onto the school network for annotating.
- What impact has this activity made on chronological understanding? Roughly how often will you repeat this activity during the course?
- What was the impact of this activity on understanding of changes and continuities and students’ abilities to make comparisons?
- What’s the best way of students’ recording or consolidating what they have learned?