Unit title


Background notes

What shapes how people live their lives?


This unit, proposed as the first that students experience in their secondary RE programme, has been designed to form a bridge between primary and secondary schools. As such, it aims to provide an opportunity for students in the class to:

·        get to know more about each other in a growing situation of trust, enquiry and openness;

·        see a connection between their experience of RE in the primary school and the secondary school;

·        learn some of the key techniques that will be needed in RE (eg listening to others and helping them to make sense of their experiences, working in pairs or small groups, contributing to a class discussion, using mindmaps and survey sheets, assessing their own work and setting targets for improvement; and

·        understand that secondary school RE will be more challenging than it was in the primary school.


In addition, the unit will provide an opportunity for the teacher to:

·         get to know the students in their new RE classes; and

·         demonstrate that the essence of RE lies in exploring and responding to both religion and human experience.


Schools will want to adapt the proposed activities, particularly through providing stimulus material or experiences to ‘lighten’ the more textual aspects of the work – eg through the use of artefacts, pictures, videos, visitors, visits.


NB When terms are printed in italics, refer to the glossary for further information


Expectations: At the end of this unit

Most students will … be able to describe evidence for the existence of religion in Redbridge; explain how religion has shaped and affected the lives of people in Redbridge; express how religion makes a difference to the lives of individuals and communities, recognising the impact of their local context; analyse what has shaped their own lives so far, and consider the impact of religion on their lives; evaluate and assess the reasons why religion is more important for some people than others, giving their own considered opinions.


Some students will not have made so much progress and will … be able to describe simply evidence for the existence of religion in Redbridge; explain a few ways in which religion has shaped and affected the lives of people in Redbridge; express in basic terms how religion makes a difference to the lives of individuals and communities;  identify some of the factors that have shaped their lives so far, and describe their own and other peoples experiences of religion; evaluate a number of reasons for why religion is more important for some people than others.


Some students will have progressed further and will … be able to describe in detail evidence for the existence of religion in Redbridge, using appropriate technical language; explain how religion has shaped and affected the lives of people in Redbridge, showing understanding of what it means to be part of a religious community/tradition in the context of different groups; express how religion makes a difference to the lives of individuals and communities, recognising the impact of inspirational people in their local context; analyse what has shaped their own lives so far, and consider the impact and relevance of religion on their lives; evaluate and assess the reasons why religion is more important for some people than others, giving their own considered opinions, supported by rational argument.



Prior learning

It is helpful if most students have:

·         been taught something about what religions are represented in their local community (see agreed syllabus for Key Stage 2);

·         learnt why some people think religion is a very important part of their lives;

·         had opportunity to develop skills of empathy, interpretation and reflection; and

·         had opportunities to debate and discuss issues with vigour.


Key questions


Learning outcomes

Suggested activities


What do I bring with me from primary school?




To be able to identify key experiences during primary school


To be able to interview another person carefully & with interest





·         Identify range of primary schools represented in new class – discuss them generally (eg what they remember most, feelings about leaving)

·         Explain that a lot of RE consists of getting people to talk about their own experiences & what sense they make of them.

·         Identify some of the rules of interviewing with the class (see Do’s & Don’ts at top of Appendix 1 sheet) the teacher could badly interview someone, with the students identifying what was wrong with the technique

·         In pairs, students (if possible, from different primary schools) interview each other about key aspects of their primary school experience (see Appendix 1 for six suggested questions) (You may need to give pupils time to consider the 6 questions first)

·         Ask some people to introduce the person they interviewed (with his/her consent) & to summarise their answers to the questions


Outline map of Redbridge & surrounding boroughs (see RE website) on which to roughly plot locations of primary schools









What shapes how people live their lives?







To understand the concept of shaping in this context


To be able to identify a range of  factors that shape how people live their lives


To be able to use a mindmap as a way of presenting information & ideas


To be able to interpret a mindmap, explaining the ideas and information it contains



·         As whole class, begin to discuss question ‘What shapes how people live their lives?(eg family, friends, desires, television, ambition, advertising, religion, genes, own choices, temperament, good and bad experiences), explaining concept of shaping

·         Each person to create a mindmap, using words &/or pictures, showing the things that have shaped how they live their own life. (Students could work in pairs to make sure that each other’s mindmap was as detailed & clear as possible, with links developed)

·         Compare the results of this exercise (with individual student’s consent) & invite comments

·         Sensitively consider the extent to which religion has or has not featured in people’s mindmaps. If appropriate, ask the class whether this is surprising?



Piece of clay or playdough to explain concept of ‘shaping’


See glossary for background to ‘mindmaps’ + Appendix 2 for incomplete example


A mindmap of a celebrity might be useful


A supply of pictures, symbols, words, coloured pens etc might be used to encourage the pupils



Key questions


Learning outcomes

Suggested activities



How might religion shape people’s lives?








To understand that religion is a complex word which suggests many things


To be able to identify a range of  obvious & less obvious evidence that religion was affecting the life of a person or group of people


To understand that there is a relationship between religion & culture



·         Introduce word ‘religion’. Students then work in pairs/trios brainstorming what ‘religion’ means to them (eg names of main religious traditions, key people/roles, beliefs, books, beliefs, effect on the world, feelings about religion)

·         Share & discuss what groups have produced.

·         Point out that religion is not a simple word with a simple definition: it can mean different things to different people

·         Explain that religion could be said to affect people’s lives in an ‘outer’ & an ‘inner’ way. Use Appendix 3 to collect examples using the prior knowledge of students &/or show a video featuring a religious community/ies as a stimulus

·         The relationship between religion & culture might be explored

·         Carry out survey at home, finding out about: what people think the word religion means? How do they think religion has shaped people’s lives? Why is religion more important in some people’s lives than in others? (see Appendix 4)












Artefacts could also be used as a stimulus eg mezuzah, badges (cross etc), turban material, Muslim topee







What evidence is there that religion has shaped the lives of people in Redbridge?


NB This activity will probably take several sessions so that students can research, assimilate & complete the follow-up task


Multi-cultural community


Multi-faith/religious community





To be able to identify explicit & implicit evidence for religion shaping the community


To be able to draw conclusions from the 2001 census figures relating to declared religious adherence

·         Discuss/evaluate results of homework survey as a class

·         Explain what is meant by Redbridge as a multi-faith & multi-cultural community. (You might  again wish to draw the distinction between ‘religion’ & ‘culture’)

·         Examine & analyse statistical information about the declared religions of Redbridge inhabitants from 2001 census (see Appendix 5 & Redbridge in glossary). Complete the task in appendix 5 (i)

·         As a class, begin to list what evidence there is in the community that religion has shaped people’s lives.

Support for this could be provided by: arranging a learning walk near school; looking at photographs taken in Redbridge (see RE website)

·         Students then complete one or three tasks:

1.    Use this list of evidence to write an answer to the question ‘How has religion shaped the lives of some people in Redbridge?(see Appendix 6 for a writing frame that some students could use or refer to)

or   2.    Draw an imaginary street scene for a competition in which people have to spot as many pieces of evidence as possible for religion in the lives of Redbridge people

or    3.    Create a photographic/picture collage of religion in Redbridge as an example of how it has shaped people’s lives

·         For homework, ask students to continue to research information relevant to their chosen task, & bring it to the next lesson in order to continue to work on & complete their chosen task.




Photographs showing Redbridge diversity are available on the RE website




Learning outcomes

Suggested activities


What have we learnt from this unit?



To be able to reflect on what they have learnt


To be able to identify targets for improvement

·         Briefly summarise the activities that have formed this unit

·         Students complete the self-assessment form (see Appendix 7) individually & then talk it through with a partner

·         In the light of this unit & primary school experience, consider the question ‘Why study RE?& display thoughts on the board

·         Look at students’ comments on Appendix 8 & add to, if appropriate

·         Enthuse them about their future course of RE at KS3 (The skills & processes that RE seeks to help develop might be reviewed - see Appendix 9)

·         Homework could be a preparation task for their next unit of work





A glossary of religious, cultural, educational and other terms used in this planning grid



Like religion (see below), various definitions of culture have been given. In general terms, though, it refers to the everyday way of life or style of living (‘how we do things’) of a particular community or society. The people might not be aware of their culture, however, because for them it is ‘how life is lived’.  It is important to draw a distinction between religion and culture because religion will be expressed through a variety of cultural traditions eg Easter is the key Christian festival, but not all cultures give chocolate Easter eggs; Muslims from a Pakistani background might wear clothing associated with Pakistan, but this does not mean that all Muslims do so. In many religious traditions there is an ongoing debate about how important cultural traditions are.



Pronounced m-zoozah. A Hebrew word literally meaning ‘doorpost’. In Hebrew, the plural is mezuzot. The small scroll in a case placed on the right doorpost of all doors in the Jewish home, apart from bathroom and toilet. The handwritten scroll contains part of the Shema prayer. In that Redbridge has traditionally had a large Jewish population, mezuzot can easily be spotted outside homes. Mezuzot are also used on doorposts in the three Redbridge Jewish schools; King Solomon High School, Ilford Jewish Primary School & Clore Tikva Primary School.



A diagrammatic presentation  - using words, pictures or a combination of both - to show the link & connectedness between ideas, facts etc. Mindmaps are economical and effective ways of presenting information, both by the teacher & the student. They are often recommended for revision purposes. Mindmaps are a key constituent of ‘accelerated learning’ techniques & have been developed in the works of Tony Buzan. See his The MindMap Book (BBC 2000, ISBN0-563-53732-9) & website, http://www.mind-map.com/

See Appendix 2 for an example of the mindmap style of presenting information & ideas



An outer London Borough to the north-east of the city. According to the 2001 census:

·         the population is 238,635;

·         50,742 of the population were born outside the European Community;

·         the figures for religious allegiance are: Christian (121,067); Buddhist (1.052); Hindu (18,661); Jewish (14,796); Muslim (28,487); Sikh (13,022); Other (1038); no religion (22,952); religion not stated (17,560).


For further statistical information based on the 2001 census, see http://www.statistics.gov.uk/census2001/profiles/00bc.asp



The definition of religion is contested & many suggestions have been offered. It is important to remember that the idea that there are a series of ‘world religions’ that can be distinguished easily from each other is a fairly modern, Western idea. Indeed, in many traditions there is no word for ‘religion’ as such. Muslims, for example, refer to the Muslim din (pronounced deen) or ‘way of life’. Hindus might refer, not to their ‘religion’, but rather to their dharma which roughly means ‘the right way of going about things’. Given this, teachers are advised to:

·         not present ‘religions’ as if they are watertight systems with neat boundaries;

·         use the term ‘religious tradition’ rather than ‘religion’ wherever possible (as does the agreed syllabus); and

·         speak in such a way that it takes account of variety within religious traditions eg it is usually better to use a phrase like ‘Most Christians’ rather    than ‘Christians’, ‘Most Hindus’ rather than ‘Hindus’, and so on.


For a detailed analysis of the development of the word ‘religion’, see Robert Jackson’s Religious Education: An Interpretative Approach (Hodder & Stoughton 1997, ISBN 0-340-68870-X), chapter 3.



In this unit, the word shape is being used instead of a concept like ‘influence’. The image, of course, is that human beings are not ‘pre-made’ but are influenced by many things – including their own choices (freewill). In order to explain the concept of shape or shaping, a teacher might want to use a piece of malleable material (eg clay, playdough)



A small cap, sometimes made of white lace-like material, which is worn by Muslim men in some parts of the world. It might be worn all of the time, or only when the person is engaged in devotional activity such as praying or reading the Qur’an.



The turban, with which many Sikh men cover their hair (gathered into a topknot on top of the head) is itself one of the Five Ks but is very much part of Sikh identity. The right to wear the turban (colloquially called a pag – a shortened from of pagri – in Panjabi) has often been fiercely fought for by Sikhs. There is no religious significance in the colour of the turban though some Sikh groups do wear particular colours or tie the turban in a distinctive manner. However, just because a turban is being worn does not necessarily indicate that a person is Sikh, amrit-dhari (baptised/initiated) or otherwise.


See Sikh Appearance & Identity briefing paper produced by Redbridge SACRE




‘Values’ can be defined as those essential principles or standards that are ‘valued’ eg a key educational value is the importance of learning, a key family value might be loyalty to family members, a key Sikh value is sewa (pronounced say-va) which means serving others. (eg by serving them food in the gurdwara), a key Jewish & Christian value is loving both God & fellow human beings, a ‘universal’ value might be telling the truth. As such, values are:

·         goals to which people strive;

·         constraints on people’s actions;

·         ideals which make demands on people; and

·         linked to reputation and public image.


See ‘Statement of values by the National Forum for Values in Education & the Community’ published as part of the revised National Curriculum (The National Curriculum: Handbook for Secondary Teachers in England, http://www.nc.uk.net/values.htm)



Appendix 1: Six suggested interview questions


Some Do’s and Don’ts of interviewing


C         Do sit facing the person

D   Don’t fidget

C         Do make eye contact when you ask a question

D   Don’t look at what other people are doing in your classroom

C         Do speak clearly

D   Don’t speak too fast

C         Do listen to what answers the person gives, before you try to write anything

D          Don’t try to write everything that they say – just a few words

as a summary

C         Do give time for people to think and respond to your question

D   Don’t rush people, or look impatient

C         Do affirm their answers

D   Don’t make sarcastic responses to any of their answers


Take a few moments to think about how you would answer these six questions before you start interviewing someone else


Six questions


1.         What primary school did you go to?


2.         What did you enjoy most about your time at the school?


3.         What was the most special thing that happened to you at primary school? Why was it special?


4.         Which adult at primary school would you most like to thank? Why?


5.         What is one thing that you learnt at primary school that you will remember all your life? Why will you remember it?


6.         How did your time at primary school shape the kind of person that you are? (eg how you think about yourself; how you think about other people; what you think about the future; what you think about learning and education)



Appendix 2: Example of the ‘mindmap’ style of presenting information & ideas







Text Box: My friends





Text Box: Advertising
Text Box: Want to be a celebrityText Box: Words I use
Text Box: Levi jeans
Text Box: Wearing clothes with brand names on
Text Box: Television
Text Box: Get cross easily
Text Box: Support Man United
Text Box: My DadText Box: What shapes my life?

Appendix 3: How religion might shape people’s lives

In each instance below, give at least one example & then decide whether your example is better described as ‘inner’ or ‘outer’


How it shapes a person’s life

At least one example (words &/or picture)

Is this ‘inner’ or ‘outer’ (or both)?

What people wear





Where people go





What people eat






What words people use






What people think






How people spend their money






How people spend their time





What people do







(Your own example)









Appendix 4: Homework survey sheet



Person 1

Person 2

Person 3







What do you think the word ‘religion’ means?









Could you give me an example of how religion shapes people’s lives?









Why do think that religion is more important to some people than others?












Appendix 5 (i): The different religious groups in Redbridge (according to the 2001 census)


In the 2001 census, residents in Redbridge were asked to state what religion they followed. The responses are given below. Create a pie-chart (using excel if you have access to it) to display this information, and then identify five things that this tells you about religion in Redbridge



Overall population of Redbridge    -        238,635


When asked to give the religion they followed, Redbridge residents gave the following responses:


Buddhist                                              -        1,052


Christian                                              -        121,067


Hindu                                                    -        18,661


Jewish                                                 -        14,796


Muslim                                                 -        28,487


No religion                                          -        22,952


Other                                                    -        1,038


Sikh                                                      -        13,022



17,560 people did not answer the question on the census form



Appendix 5 (ii): Pie chart showing the different religious groups in Redbridge (according to the 2001 census)





Appendix 6: How has religion shaped the lives of some people in Redbridge?


Redbridge is … (something about where Redbridge is located and the size of its population)




People in Redbridge follow many different religions, for example …  (something about the different religions and the numbers of people that follow them)




If you walk round Redbridge, you can see many obvious examples of religion. For example … (something about the many obvious examples of religions such as buildings, street names, people’s clothing)





But, if you look more closely, you will see less obvious examples of the religions that people follow. For example … (something about examples that you have to look out for such as badges on cars, jewellery that people wear, pictures on shop fronts and inside shops, designs in house windows)




If you look more closely still, you might also see examples of how religion affects people’s behaviour. For example …  (something about examples like how people behave towards each other, how they spend their money and time)




Living in a place like Redbridge, with people from many backgrounds, is … (something about your own feelings and experiences of living in a multi-faith, multi-religious community like Redbridge)






Appendix 7: What shapes how people live their lives? End of unit self-assessment




The main thing that I have learnt about what shapes people’s lives is …





The main thing that I have learnt about what shapes my own life is …





The most interesting part of this unit of work was …


because …



The most difficult part of this unit was …


because …



The thing that surprised me most was …


because …










The things I did well in this unit were …

The things I could improve on next time are …




















In my next unit of RE work I will target the following three areas:













Signed: __________________________________________________                                        Date: ____________________



Appendix 8: What students have said about RE

“My best part of RE is when we talk and learn about God.”


“I think that from my RE lessons I have begun to realise what makes each religion unique.  It has also helped me to appreciate other people’s views and feelings, their ways of life and how they treat people.  I enjoy above all else, exploring other people’s lifestyles.”


“RE is good because it lets you inside yourself, and take a look at your beliefs and morals”



“I like the opportunities to explore and question different philosophies of life and different lifestyles.  I am interested in finding out the answers or clues, if you like, to the mysteries of life.”


 “So far I have got one thing out of my RE lessons, that is to give RESPECT to everyone as much as possible.”


“I have got many answers to really puzzling questions out of my RE lessons, and that has been great.”


“I love the open discussions we have in RE lessons.  Expressing your opinions is a valuable way of communication and improving your communication skills.  Being informed of the different religions and the effects of religion is beneficial to everyone living in a multicultural society…Ignorance causes a lot of problems, and RE is a brilliant method of overcoming this.”


“From RE I have noticed the similarities and differences between my religion and others and also how they differ on certain issues.  I like RE because the knowledge of my religion I have, is shared amongst other people so they know a bit more about my way of life.”


“RE has taught me to see both sides of arguments and about other religions.  I like it because it prepares me for later life.  If I encounter other religions I will be prepared to discuss with them their beliefs.”

Here are how some Year 7 – 11 students answered the question, Why study RE?

Appendix 9: Skills and processes in RE


a)     Investigation – this includes:

v      asking relevant questions;

v      knowing how to use different types of sources as a way of gathering information;

v     knowing what may constitute evidence for understanding religion(s).


b)     Interpretation – this includes:

v      the ability to draw meaning from artefacts, works of art, poetry and symbolism;

v      the ability to interpret religious language;

v     the ability to suggest meanings of religious texts.


c)      Reflection – this includes:

v      the ability to reflect on feelings, relationships, experience, ultimate questions, beliefs and practices.


d)     Empathy – this includes:

v      the ability to consider the thoughts, feelings, experiences, attitudes, beliefs and values of others;

v      developing the power of imagination to identify feelings such as love, wonder, forgiveness and sorrow;

v     the ability to see the world through the eyes of others, and to see issues from their point of view.


e)     Evaluation – this includes:

v      the ability to debate issues of religious significance with reference to evidence and argument;

v     weighing the respective claims of self-interest, consideration for others, religious teaching and individual conscience.


f)        Analysis – this includes:

v      distinguishing between opinion, belief and fact;

v     distinguishing between the features of different religions.


g)     Synthesis – this includes:

v      linking significant features of religion together in a coherent pattern;

v     connecting different aspects of life into a meaningful whole.


h)      Application – this includes:

v      making the association between religions and individual community, national and international life;

v     identifying key religious values and their interplay with secular ones.


i)        Expression – this includes:

v      the ability to explain concepts, rituals and practices;

v     the ability to identify and articulate matters of deep conviction and concern, and to respond to religious issues through a variety of media.