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London Borough of Redbridge – Agreed Syllabus for Religious Education: Year 1 unit: Who influences our lives? (March 2002 version)

Unit title


Background notes

Who influences our lives?


In this unit, pupils will reflect on what people are special to them. Through stories from several religious traditions – Christian (St Francis), Muslim (Prophet Muhammad) and Sikh (Guru Nanak and Guru Gobind Singh) - they will then learn about some people who are believed to be special and how this specialness might influence the ideas and lives of people.
Much in this unit will be developed and extended in later units. For example, the person of St Francis is again referred to in the Year 3 unit, ‘What makes me the person I am?’

Key questions


Learning outcomes

Suggested activities


Which people are special to me?

Special people


To be able to be able to consider who is special to them in their lives

  • Talk about special people in their lives and why they are special. Make a display with photos and drawings

  • Think about special people in school - eg midday assistants, support assistants, caretakers, dinner staff - and identify what special things they do

  • Make a card for a special person in school to say ‘thank you for helping me/us’

  • Invite in someone the class has chosen as being special to be its guest. Think about how the room will be decorated, what music will be played or what song sung, what food will be shared etc. How will the class make this person feel special? Make a photo display of the visit. Give a photograph to the person as a keep-sake

Digital camera

Why is St Francis special for some Christians?



To know a story associated with the life of St Francis
To understand that St Francis had special qualities which people told stories about

  • Look at pictures of wolves and talk about what sort of animal they are

  • Listen to the story of St Francis and the wolf of Gubbio, telling how St Francis subdued the wolf. Why did the wolf change? How did St Francis show that he cared about the wolf? Explain how saint means a very holy Christian
  • Act out the story of St Francis and the wolf of Gubbio, showing the scared children, the angry wolf and the effect St Francis has on the wolf. Show him making the sign of the cross to the wolf, the children putting out food and everyone living together happily in the end


  • draw two ‘before-and-after’ pictures of the story, one when all the children were scared and unhappy and one showing how happy the city of Gubbio was after St Francis had helped

Pictures of wolves
Scholastic Curriculum Bank , Bk 1, pp40-41
NB The painting ‘Le loup de Gubbio’ by Luc-Olivier Merson (1846-1920). See ‘Agreed Syllabus Gallery’ section of Redbridge RE Network website
Statuette of St Francis

Why are stories about Muhammad special for Muslims?



To consider why it is important to show love and kindness to living creatures
To understand that Muhammad is a very special person for Muslims

  • Show children a picture of a camel and talk about what sort of countries it comes from, and how hot these countries can be

  • Explain that Muhammad is a special person to Muslims

  • Share the story of the Crying Camel and talk about what special thing Muhammad did in the story. How did Muhammad make things better? How did the camel owner change? Why did he change how he behaved?

  • If pupils are familiar with this story from Foundation Stage, the story of Muhammad and the sleeping kitten could be told. Muhammad saw a kitten sleeping on his cloak. Rather than disturb the creature, he cut a hole around it in his cloak. What does that tell us about Muhammad?
  • Children could plan a presentation to another class about how it is important to be loving and kind to all creatures

Picture of a camel

Scholastic Curriculum Bank , Bk 1, pp44-45, 125

See sayings about kindness following this grid

Why do Sikhs tell the story of Guru Nanak bathing in the river?




To understand that some stories are very special to followers of a religion
To understand that Guru Nanak is a very special person for Sikhs

  • Pupils look at pictures of Guru Nanak and say what they can see in the pictures. What does the person look like? How can we tell he is special? Show the light around his head and talk about what that might mean.

  • Explain that Guru Nanak is a special person to Sikh people and that guru means special teacher.

  • Tell the story of Guru Nanak bathing in the river, breaking it into two sections. The whole class role plays looking for Guru Nanak after he has disappeared. Then tell the second part in which he reappears. Talk about what special message Guru Nanak brought back after three days away

  • The class could then draw a picture of Guru Nanak which a Sikh child would like as a present, perhaps adding light to the picture, or gold paper to show how special the Guru is to Sikhs

Pictures of Guru Nanak

Scholastic Curriculum Bank , Bk 1, pp103-104, 156-157

Scholastic Curriculum Bank , Bk 2, pp14-15

What did Guru Gobind Singh ask Sikhs to look like?

Special objects


To understand that Guru Gobind Singh is a special person to Sikhs
To understand that the Five Ks are special to Sikhs

  • Hand around the class a Sikh kara (bangle) in a velvet bag. Children feel the bag and guess what they think is inside it

  • Explain that it is one of the special things that many Sikhs wear and that Guru Gobind Singh told Sikhs what to wear to show that they belonged to the same religion?

  • Tell the story of Baisakhi and show the Five Ks, or watch a video that shows the Five Ks

  • Do they know anyone in the school who wears something to do with their religion?

  • Dress a doll as a Sikh boy or girl, showing that they are wearing all or most of the Five Ks

Sikh kara + other examples of the Sikh Five Ks
Scholastic Curriculum Bank , Bk 1, pp32-33, 116-117
BBC Pathways of Belief video on Sikhism
Redbridge SACRE briefing paper, Sikh Appearance & Identity

Some sayings about kindness
‘No act of human kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.’ Aesop (c620-560 BCE)
‘Kind words bring life, but cruel words crush.’ Anon
‘Kindness consists in loving people more than they deserve.’ Jacqueline Schiff
‘One of the most difficult things to give away is kindness; it usually comes back to you.’ Anon
‘If you light a lamp for somebody, it will also brighten your own path.’ Buddhist saying

A glossary of religious and cultural terms used in the planning grid

Five Ks, the

The five symbols that mark out a baptised Sikh. The word for each of the symbols begins with the letter K in the Panjabi language: the kirpan, or sword, a reminder that Sikhs must fight for justice; the kacchera or undergarment, a reminder to be clean-living: the kangha or comb worn in the hair, a reminder to lead a disciplined life; the kesh or uncut hair, to remind Sikhs to lead disciplined lives; and the kara or steel bangle, worn on the right wrist, a reminder that Sikhs must be strong. Even Sikhs who are not baptised will wear some of the Five Ks.


Within the East, certain people have been recognized as having particular spiritual qualities. Such people have been called ‘gurus’, a word that literally means ‘teacher’, but perhaps better rendered here as ‘special teacher’. Gurus attract followers who want to be in their presence and to learn from them. The Sikh religion began with a person who was recognized as a guru – Guru Nanak (1469-1539). There were ten human Sikh gurus in all, the last being Guru Gobind Singh (1666-1708). Before he died, he said that Sikhs should thereafter go to their holy book as their Guru: this is why it is called Guru Granth Sahib

Guru Gobind Singh


The tenth and last of the ten human Gurus of the Sikhs. Before he died, he said that from his time onwards Sikhs should regard their holy book as their Guru. At the Baisakhi festival in 1699, he brought into being the Khalsa of baptised Sikhs who were to wear the Five Ks and use the names Kaur and Singh.

Guru Nanak


The first of the ten human Gurus of the Sikhs.


(570-632 CE)

God, Muslims believe, sent different prophets (messengers) to different peoples at different times. The last of these prophets – the ‘Seal of the Prophets’ – was Muhammad, a native of Makkah in Arabia. Though he is greatly honoured by Muslims, he is not worshipped. For this reason, Muslims find it offensive to call their religion (Islam) ‘Muhammadanism’


The word saint (derived from the Latin sanctus meaning holy) was used by the first Christians to refer to themselves; all Christian believers were saints. Gradually, however, the title came to be reserved for Christian men and women who revealed exceptional spiritual qualities in their lives and deaths

Saint Francis


Francis was born into a rich merchant family in the Italian town of Assisi. He eventually gave up his wealthy background in order to embrace ‘Sister Poverty’. Many men and women followed his lead and so began the Franciscan Order of monks and nuns. (NB Historically, the difference between a monk and a friar was that the former stayed in one place whilst the latter moved around.) Francis had a particular love of nature and is often called the patron saint of ecology. His feast day (a day when some Christians celebrate his life and example) is October 4th. There is a Roman Catholic Franciscan Priory in High Road, Woodford Green (adjacent to St Anthony’s RC Primary School)

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