Teaching Sequence: Inside Out

Insight about “Inside Out”

“Take her to the moon for me. Okay?” - Bing Bong

A teaching sequence by Emil Alexander Holm Thorsen & Thomas Raun Bøg

This is a teaching sequence revolving around the Pixar movie “Inside Out”. The students will watch the movie, work with it and through it gain competencies and insights about interacting with others, controlling and study their emotions, what they do and how to express them - In turn they will connect these emotions to their own memories.

The structure of this teaching is two-fold: The students will receive a worksheet with writing and vocabulary assignments. The student, scaffolded by the assignments, fellow student and the teacher’s guidance, will go through a set of exercises that increase in difficulty, working their way from simple sentence and vocabulary exercises towards regular production of writing material. This worksheet will be scaffolded by group discussions in the classroom, where the students are put into a context where they can produce material, negotiate meaning and form and test hypotheses (Susanne Jacobsen 2011). The teacher will equip the student with vocational vocabulary and sentence grammar, the students then, hopefully, will be able to apply to their work with the written material in the worksheet. Alongside the worksheet, the students will have to create a drama performance, where they each will get to tell stories akin to the five characters of the movie: Joy, Sadness, Disgust, Anger & Scared. The students will collaborate and create a simple written manuscript to help their performance along.  

Learning Objectives

  • I understand the difference between emotions and their characteristics
  • I can express my feelings and connect them to specific personal memories
  • I can hear stories from other people, and write down the emotions that I perceive/feel/hear.
  • I can relate the movie “Inside Out” to my own life and feelings.
  • I can use my knowledge about emotions to communicate with my classmates in a manner that strengthen teamwork and collaboration in the long run.


Interacting with others - Derewianka Chapter 4

“In group” & “out group”: Members of a discourse family can use varieties of language that can have the effect of being “inclusive” or “exclusive”. By using the language of the ‘group’ we can build up solidarity and group cohesion. At the same time, we can exclude others from participation.

Year 4: Recognising the importance of using inclusive language. (Derewianka 2011)


One way to stimulate interaction is to talk about our feelings and opinions. Such attitudinal language generally invites a response from the listener or reader. Students need to be able to identify when a text is attempting to persuade them to a particular point of view or position them in a particular way. Persuasive language might be more obvious in text types that seek to influence but can also occur less obviously in more ‘objective’ text types. (Derewianka 2011)


Evaluating the qualities of things

We can express an opinion about the qualities of something (Ideas, clothing, food) evaluating aspects as:

  • Composition or aesthetic value
  • Social value or significance
  • The reaction they provoke

(Derewianka 2011)

Judging human behaviour

Our attitudes might include opinions about people’s behaviour. We can praise, admire, criticise or condemn their actions. Sometimes people’s behaviour is nominalised (turned into an abstract ‘thing’). We can judge behaviour in terms of:

  • Social esteem (Normality, capacity/competence, tenacity/resolve)
  • Social sanction (Veracity, propriety)

(Derewianka 2011)

What language do you use when interacting with others?

We want to create a language awareness in the students - what can words do to the way I am signaling or being understood?

  • Explicit
  • implicit
  • body language


Every time

Dance to the music

The students enter the classroom and music is playing. Every class starts out with different music according to the 5 main feelings: Anger, Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust. The students try to dance according to the music. When the number ends, the students express the feelings they felt and imitated in their dance.



What are the important words in the movie. We are focusing on the difficult words regarding emotions. The vocabulary sheet is inexhaustive so the children can add their own words, and keep looking up words that are difficult during the teaching sequence.

Characters (Feelings and family)

  • Who are they?
  • What are their characteristics?
  • Vocabulary for each
  • Personality - different sides of the person.


Watching & Listening to the Movie

Getting to know my emotions

Write down characteristics of the different feeling characters.


Inspired Writing

  • Draw a memory for each emotion inside the coloured “emotion balls”.
    • Joy
    • Anger
    • Sadness
    • Disgust
    • Fear
  • Write down keywords to each story.
  • What are the resources from the different feelings (characters) - what are they helping you/the protagonist accomplish?

Vocabulary Feeling

Connect the words with the correct character/emotion.

Hide -> Scared. Happy -> Joy. Hit -> Anger.

Quote to Character

Connect the quote to correct character. Which character said the following?

“Crying helps me slow down and obsess over the weight of life's problems.” -> Sadness

Emotion stand up game

Divide the students into groups of five, and secretly hand out one of the five emotion to each of the five students.

If a statement applies ______  / Your character might say ______ / you feel like _____ Stand up

Guess which student is which character

What words do we use if we are ____ ?

Mental Health and its impact on well-being

How did Riley’s mental and emotional health impact the other elements of her well-being?

  • Physical Health?
  • Intellectual Health?
  • Spiritual Health?
  • Social Health?
  • Why is it important that I learn how to create a high level of mental health?
  • What can I learn from Riley’s situation?

Scaffolding: Talk about the different types of mental health in plenum.


a board game with association words and pictures, inspired by the movie. The kids are in groups of 4, collaborating to try and figure out which emotions fit together with the word/picture cards. The goal is to use the vocabulary in a practical way and speak to the empathy in the other persons, trying to understand what the other person mean or think about.

Drama Performance

Why Am I….? (90 - 180 minutes)

Divide the students into five groups as the class sees it fit, preferably not more than 3-4 students in each group. The teacher might take into consideration which students will be appropriate for the different emotions, or which pupils will work well together creatively.

Each group will secretly receive an emotion on a small piece of paper hidden from the other groups, which will also receive their own emotion. On the secret piece of paper, there is but one question: Why am I Joyful, Angry, Disgusted, Scared, Sad? (Only one of the emotions will be present on the note).

They have to portrait through their own experiences and memories, how they have come to become one of the above five. Depending on age group the teacher might want to scaffold this exercise further. Younger students will have a hard time starting the creative process, and as such will benefit from prompting questions, whereas older students might benefit from creative obstructions to guide their workflow.

The teacher might want to make the drama performance a free production or create some boundaries for the performance - Again this depends on the creative and cognitive abilities of the students. All of the students should be an active part of the drama performance, and as such no one is allowed to portrait a minor supporting actor - Some students will find theater and drama a daunting task. Few or several warm-up exercises might be beneficial to break down the barriers for some students.

The teacher should encourage the on-going process of the students, and allow the students to take ownership of the performance - Just as well should he/she guide the language production of the students, and ensure they are working with thematically appropriate plotlines. The teacher should take Language for interacting with others into consideration when working with the students. It is important that the students write a simple manuscript to guide their performance, as well as to give the assignment a written output from which the teacher will benefit in analyzing his/her pupil’s interlanguage.

Evaluate the performance of the students, but keep in mind when giving feedback, that correcting a drama performance is a delicate task. The teacher should focus on the good aspects of the play and remain encouraging to the students, as to foster future engagement for the students. Point out for the other students what worked well within the play, and be grammatically explicit when pointing out your focus points. I.e. focus on the great use of modality or evaluating the quality of things and teach the students explicitly what these language choices does functionally.