Inside Out and SEL: A Movie Guide and Lesson Plan for Your Classroom | Common Sense Education (2024)

Pixar's Inside Out is a movie that's all about feelings, and this makes it perfectfor sparking discussions with kids about social and emotional learning. Sincethe central characters all embodya different emotion, students learn to see parts of themselves or their experiences in each character.

Refreshingly,the movie doesn't make learning about emotionssuch aheavy-handed endeavor. By getting to know and love each character, students naturally come to understand that emotions are complex, and that we need the entire range of feelings to fully capture the meaning of lifeexperiences.

Things to Know Before You Show Pixar's Inside Out to Your Students

This guide offers two different approaches to teaching Inside Out:

  1. Showa few specific clips along with discussion questions.
  2. Showthe entire film with a more in-depth lesson plan and handout.

Feel free to useeither approach, or even combine the two into one lesson (or an entire unit) based around the movie. If you only have a single class period, showing just a fewkey clips belowmight be perfect. If youdecide to help studentsdelve deeperinto the topic, you might show the entire filmand havemore extensive discussionsover multiple days. Of course, you could also use some combination of the two, adapting the lesson to best suit your class's needs.

Lesson Objectives

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Inside Out and SEL: A Movie Guide and Lesson Plan for Your Classroom | Common Sense Education (1)

This lesson is designed to align with the CASEL 5 competencies for social and emotional learningas well as various thinking routinesfrom the Harvard Graduate School of Education's Project Zero.

With this lesson, you can help your students:

  • Identify their own feelings.
  • Think through what it means for emotions to have context.
  • Acknowledge the value of having a range of emotions.
  • Connect theirown personal experiences to the movie's messages.
  • Identify their own perspective, and be curious about the perspectives of others.
  • Explore the ways they identify their own emotions, including somatically.
  • Think about the ways theycurrently self-regulate, and explore possibilities for other ways.
  • Think about helpful versusunhelpful responses to emotions from themselves and others.

Inside Out Clips and SEL Discussion Questions for Students

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Inside Out and SEL: A Movie Guide and Lesson Plan for Your Classroom | Common Sense Education (2)

If you onlywant to show brief parts of thefilm and discuss them with students, use these helpful clips to get you started. You can also use these in conjunction with the longer lesson plan below.

The time stampscan help youpick and choose your areas of focus. Use as few or as many clips as you see fit, but keep in mind that you may need to introduce the movie's overall plotand talk through some of what happens before or after each clip.

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Clip #1:When Dad says Riley can't have dessert if she doesn't eat her broccoli, Anger "blows his top."(3:48-4:06)

  • Use this scene to talk about idioms. Have kids draw another emotion-related idiom (ex. cry your eyes out, bent out of shape, spaced out, down in the dumps, etc.).

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Clip #2:Joy explains core memories and how they feed the "islands of personality." (4:37-6:38)

  • Have students draw and/or write about their core memories and/or their own islands of personality.

Clip #3: Riley sees her new house, and she experiences a range of emotions. (8:43-9:50)

  • Discuss: How do emotions influence how Riley feels about the new house? How can she go from feeling sad about her new room to feeling excited about how it will look? The room didn't change --what did change, and how?

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Clip #4: A joyful memory becomes sad, as Riley remembers a moment from the trip. (11:51-12:54)

  • As we grow up, sometimes feelings get more complicated. In this scene, a memory that was purely happy becomes sad. In the movie, this is caused bySadness touching the memory. Ask students: In the real world, why might sadness "touch" a memory?
  • Explain to students that this movie was inspired by a real 11-year-old. Her dad wanted to show what it's like to have complicated feelings as you grow up. Ask students: Do you think he did a good job? What would you do differently?

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Clip #5: Joy argues with the other emotions about how Riley should feel on the first night after the move, using the phrase, "It could be worse." (16:01-17:14)

  • Riley has her own room in a house inSan Francisco, which is more than many people have. Ask students:Is Joy right -- could it be worse? Should Riley not feel angry, sad, or scared? Does thinking about how things could be worse change how you feel? Why or why not?

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Clip #6: Mom thanks Riley for being their "happy little girl" and wantsthem both to keep smiling for Dad. (17:10-18:06)

  • Riley isn't feeling happy when her mom calls her their "happy little girl." She wants Riley to "put on a happy face." Ask students: Have you ever kept smiling even when you weren't happy? What did it feel like? Did it help the situation? Did it help you?

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Clip #7: Joy asks Sadness to stay confined inside of a circle and not participate in Riley's first day at her new school. (20:50-21:27)

  • Joy wants to keep Sadness in a tiny circle during Riley's first day at her new school. Ask students: What's the result? In real life, can we keep our emotions exactly where we want them?

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Clip #8: Riley starts crying in class as she talks about her home in Minnesota, and Joy tries to prevent a sad memory from becoming a core memory. (22:09-26:08)

  • Even though she didn't want to, Riley cries in class. Ask students: How much control do we actually have over our emotions?

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Clip #9: Without Joy around, Riley snaps at her parents during dinner, and her dad "puts his foot down." We also get a peek into her parents' emotional headquarters. (26:26-30:08)

  • The movie doesn't focus on the parents' feelings or experiences much. Ask students: How do you think Riley's parents are feeling about the moveor having new jobs? How do you think they feel about making Riley move? What are the emotions in charge for Mom? For Dad? Why do you think people react to the same situation in different ways?

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Clip #10: Mind workers vacuum up faded memories to send them to the memory dump. (34:39-36:04)

  • Use this opportunity to briefly talk with students about how the movie uses examples from real parts of brain science, like long-term memory, abstract thought, and dreaming. Another example is the brain "getting rid of" unused information.
  • Have students pick one element of brain science to represent in a drawing (or any other type of creative output). Some other examples include learning, processing the senses, and daydreaming, among many others.)

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Clip #11: While talking to her friend from Minnesota, Riley suddenly feels angry. (36:00-36:36)

  • Ask students: After Riley slams her computer, how do you think her friend felt? When we lose control of our feelings and do something that hurts someone else, we may not have meant to hurt them. If we didn't mean to, are we still responsible? What can we do next?

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Clip #12: Joy, Sadness, and Bing Bong take a shortcut through Abstract Thought. (41:40-43:35)

  • An abstract thought is something that's not concrete -- or not easy to explain -- like love or loneliness. Ask students: How did the movie makers show us what abstract thought is?
  • Have students take an abstract idea and show it in a concrete way in a drawing (or any other type of creative output).

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Clip #13: Riley's hockey tryout is very frustrating and upsetting. (45:16-46:50)

  • Ask students: Riley is good at hockey and usually enjoys it, sowhy are the tryouts so hard?

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Clip #14: Both Joy and Sadness try to comfort Bing Bong when his wagon is thrown in the dump, and Sadness is the one to succeed. (47:04-49:39)

  • Having empathy is about understanding what someone else is feeling. Ask students: Why does Bing Bong respond to Sadnessbut not Joy?
  • Ask students: Why are movies a great way to see other people's perspectives and practice using empathy?

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Clip #15: Joy and Bing Bong are stuck in the memory dump. Joy feels sadherself (and realizes that emotions work together), and Bing Bong sacrifices himself to make sure Joy can escape. (1:06:27-1:13:35)

  • Ask students: What does Joy realize as she holds Riley's memory the moments after losing the hockey game?Why does Bing Bong decide to let himself fade away?
  • Introduce students to the idea of nostalgia. Ask them: When you think about happy memories from when you were little that may be fading, how do you feel?

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Clip #16: Riley's parents realize she's gone -- Riley struggles with her decision, returns home, then shares her sadness with her parents. (1:13:40-1:23:54)

  • Explain that Riley choosingto run away and try to get back to Minnesotais one way to deal with her feelings. Then ask students: What's the impact of that choice? What are some other ways she could have expressed her feelings?

Inside Out SEL Lesson Plan and Graphic Organizer

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Begin by introducing the movie and give students some context about why it’s worth thinking about more deeply. A lot of students may have seen the movie already since it came out in 2015, so make a strict "If you know it, don't blow it" rule to prevent spoilers. You might also want to discuss some of the learning objectives or the concept of active viewing.

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Before the Movie

Hand out copies of the Inside Out Active Viewing Guide, and give students a few minutes to finish the Before You Watch question.

  • Students will be listing emotions and circling the emotions they see as "good" or "positive." Importantly, they'll return to this after the movie and reflect on it in the last question. It's essential that students do both the first and last questions on the handout so as not to reinforce misconceptions about emotions or feelings being inherently good or bad.
  • For a more interactive experience, you can have kids create a "positive emotion" word cloud using Kahootor another tool of your choice.

Before you start the movie, explain the next activity that students will complete while they watch. They'll need to pick a moment that has great use of color and/or music, and make a sketch of it.

During the Movie

Make sure to pause periodicallyat key scenes throughout the movie (feel free to use the clips outlined above in this article). As you pause and discuss, give students time to do some sketching.

After the Movie

Have students complete the After You Watch activities.

  • Students can write down their responses individually, then discuss in pairs, small groups, and/or as a whole class.

Discussion Questions:

After the movie ends, it's important to help students reflect on what they've seenand talk about what they're thinking. You can discuss anything that feels particularly relevant to your students. The scenes and discussion questions listed earlier in this article can be a good starting point, but feel free to guide your classdiscussion as you see fit.

Creative Extensions

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  • Ask students to imagine what their ownmemory storage system is like: How are their memories categorized? Where do their memories all go? What does the system look like?
  • Have students think of a memory they have that started out one way but feels a different way now. Using color, create something that show the feelings they have from this memory, and how they've changed over time.
  • Watch another movie that explores similar themesbut from a different cultural perspective. Invite students to consider how these movies tackle universal themes, but in different ways given who they represent and how (e.g. the family in Inside Out is a contemporary upper-middle-class White family in the city, and the family in My Neighbor Totorois Japanese and lives a more modest life in rural, post-war Japan).
Inside Out and SEL: A Movie Guide and Lesson Plan for Your Classroom | Common Sense Education (2024)

FAQs

What lesson have you learned from the movie Inside Out? ›

Inside Out reminds us to embrace the wholeness of ourselves, give ourselves permission to not be “o*kay,” and that we have to give those around us a chance to work through their emotional realizations. It's not about trying to avoid uncomfortable feelings but rather go towards them to get honest with ourselves and grow.

How can Inside Out be used in the classroom? ›

By representing elusive feelings, thoughts and emotions as characters that can be seen and heard, the narrative gives young people the chance to talk about their own feelings as well as consider their behaviour and the circ*mstances that influence how they feel and what they do in response to those feelings.

What is the message of the movie Inside Out? ›

Pixar's Inside Out explored the way that people's emotions work in a unique way, and the film's ending revealed a lot about the balance of these emotions. Feelings like sadness are often considered negative, and Riley's journey was all about how embracing uncomfortable emotions is necessary and important.

How can movies teach social-emotional learning? ›

Benefits of Using Movies for Teaching SEL

By watching characters on screen, students can see social-emotional skills in action and relate them to their own lives. Movies also provide opportunities for discussion and reflection, allowing students to explore their own emotions and perspectives.

What is the movie Inside Out trying to teach? ›

Inside Out was a creative way to give attention to the feelings inside us all. That said, the movie could have done more to help children understand that our feelings are just one part of our larger selves, and that feelings, gone unchecked and without understanding, can wreck havoc in our lives.

What are the moral values of the movie Inside Out? ›

The purpose of this study was to find the moral values contained in the film Inside Out, from the results of this study found 10 types of moral values contained in it, namely honesty, courage, self-reliance and potential, fidelity and chastity, loyalty and dependability, respect, love and affection, unselfishness and ...

What is an example of an Inside Out approach? ›

An example of an inside-out strategy would be a company that creates a novel product based not on a market need but a belief in the product's potential as a desirable good. The company can devote its resources to creating the highest-quality product possible, and it's the quality that attracts customers.

What is the inside outside teaching strategy? ›

It can be used as a cooperative strategy and a summarizing strategy. During inside-outside circle, students either sit or stand facing each other in two concentric circles. Students respond to teacher questions or note-card prompted questions and then rotate to the next partner.

What are the 5 emotions in Inside Out? ›

As you likely know by now, much of the film takes place in the head of an 11-year-old girl named Riley, with five emotions—Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust—embodied by characters who help Riley navigate her world.

What is the plot and main themes of the film Inside Out? ›

“Inside Out” is an animated film produced by Pixar Animation Studios. The story revolves around an 11-year-old girl named Riley and the emotions that reside in her mind: Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust, and Anger. The emotions guide Riley through the challenges of moving to a new city and the complexities of growing up.

What is the concept behind Inside Out? ›

Inside Out references the concept of evolutionary adaptiveness, illustrating how emotions like fear can activate protective fight-or-flight mechanisms. The film also hints at the spectrum of emotional intensity and the potential for emotions to blend, creating complex feelings similar to mixing colors.

What is the reflection of the movie Inside Out? ›

The film's message is that we need all our emotions, not just happy ones. Things appear to work poorly when only one of the emotions is in command, and much better when they all work together by being equally valued. We are also reminded that it is sometimes necessary to express our emotions to those who care about us.

Can movies teach life lessons? ›

Movies have a profound impact on our lives, shaping our beliefs, values, and even our personalities. We all love movies for their entertainment value, but movies also teach us important life lessons that can help shape our personalities for the better.

How movies can help in learning? ›

Visual learners, for example, benefit from the rich audiovisual content that film provides, allowing them to better understand and retain information. Additionally, film encourages creativity and imagination, as students are exposed to different narratives, cultures, and perspectives.

How can movies educate us? ›

Thought-provoking films serve as a catalyst to start conversations and debates among students about difficult social, cultural, and ethical problems. This not only improves students' critical thinking abilities but also cultivates empathy and a knowledge of different points of view.

What lesson did joy learn in Inside Out? ›

But by the end of the film, Joy—like Riley, and the audience—learns that there is much, much more to being happy than boundless positivity. In fact, in the film's final chapter, when Joy cedes control to some of her fellow emotions, particularly Sadness, Riley seems to achieve a deeper form of happiness.

What is the lesson of Inside Out and back again? ›

It can help children build empathy as they picture themselves in Hà's shoes. It can be used in a history unit on the Vietnam War and used to show another culture. Children and teens will relate to the themes of bullying, isolation, grief, loneliness, and resilience.

What is your reflection about the movie Inside Out? ›

The film's message is that we need all our emotions, not just happy ones. Things appear to work poorly when only one of the emotions is in command, and much better when they all work together by being equally valued. We are also reminded that it is sometimes necessary to express our emotions to those who care about us.

What does Inside Out teach us about memories? ›

In some respects, the movie captures the science behind memory and emotion really well, such as how remembering past events can regulate emotion. Memories allow us to mentally time travel and to relive the past in the present.

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