Curriculum RE - Lesson plan A matter of life and death

26th March 2010 at 00:00
Secondary A ranking grid can help to stimulate ideas on what an afterlife might look like, while quizzing pupils on their pet hates can conjure up the notion of heaven and hell

What the lesson is about

Introduce ideas about life after death to encourage pupils to think about their personal views. This lesson, suitable for key stage 3 and 4 pupils, requires film and music clips readily available on YouTube.


- Pupils can understand why people believe in the afterlife.

- Pupils can understand religious and non-religious views of the afterlife.

- Pupils can think about their own views on life after death.

How it works

Have a nine-square grid on each desk, with each of the squares including a statement on life after death, such as: "There is no such thing as life after death"; "Everyone has a soul that lives on after death"; "Hell is a place of suffering and torment". Ask the pupils to rank each statement. According to how strongly they agree or disagree.

Explain that some people believe in an afterlife. Ask pupils to complete a spider diagram suggesting five reasons why people believe in life after death.

Draw a chart on the board and alongside it put the reasons the pupils have come up with. Show a video of the film What Dreams May Come (the section from 25 minutes to 29 minutes) and play a section of I Will Follow You Into the Dark by Death Cab for Cutie (the first one minute 15 seconds) - or choose suitable excerpts from other filmssongs. Ask the pupils to write down the key idea about life after death they get from each clip.

Then ask pupils to select an idea from the list of reasons on the board and put it on the chart. Discuss the clips and what they say about how heaven and hell can be perceived.

Taking it further

Discuss what it means to have a personal idea of heaven or hell. Model your own version of what heaven or hell means to you, whether a constant supply of chocolate or Girls Aloud playing 247.

Ask pupils to create their own heaven and hell, based on the ideas raised in the film clips but using their own imagination. They can then create their own poster depicting their ideas of heaven and hell.

Find accounts of the afterlife and discuss them with the class. Do they have anything in common? Why might they be similar? Find accounts of near-death experiences. How reliable are they? What can we learn from them?

For a plenary, split the class into two teams and play a game of noughts and crosses, giving a nought or cross each time they give a correct answer to a question on why people believe in life after death. Ask pupils to feed back their views of heaven and hell to the class.

Where to find it

A lesson plan, ranking grid and PowerPoint introducing life and death can be found at The original lesson was uploaded by sidraf.

Further reading

Examples of near-death accounts are available at the Near Death Experience Research Foundation: and The Big Book of Near Death Experiences by P. Atwater (Hampton Roads Publishing).

For a discussion of evidence for life after death, including hauntings, out-of-body experiences and psychics, try Is There An Afterlife?: A Comprehensive Review of the Evidence by David Fontana (O Books), a psychologist and former president of the Society for Psychical Research.


Open evening

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Quotes for RE displays

Various religious and motivational quotes that can be used for display re-quotes

Assessment levels posters

Posters setting out what pupils need to do to reach each key stage 3 level


RE collection

A collection of resources around Christianitychristianity

Religious experience

A series of PowerPoint resources to support teaching about religious experience.


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