How to Use Inside Out in Your Classroom

Inside & Out of Emotions Bundle


Teaching middle schoolers (or anyone, really) about the complexities of mental and emotional health is no easy task. Introducing emotions, learning how to identify and express feelings, and understanding how to cope with life is daunting. And the risk of inadequately teaching about these concepts is scary. But the danger of not even attempting to teach mental and emotional health is much more detrimental. So what’s a middle school teacher to do?


Inside Out, Joy, Sadness, Inside Out Lesson Plans, Middle School, School Counselor,

(Definitely worth the looooong Disney line)


Thankfully, we are now living in a post-Inside Out. And the Disney Pixar geniuses created a movie that breaks down barriers of vulnerability and creates a safe space to learn about the intricacies of mental and emotional health. The story of Riley’s emotions and her journey to cope with major life changes is timeless, allowing viewers of all ages to powerfully connected with the themes of this film. It is a must watch for every student (and teacher).



Teaching Mental & Emotional Health


When I first watched Inside Out I was in the middle of creating a new health curriculum. As soon as I watched Riley’s story unfold, I knew it would be the foundation of my emotional and mental health unit. Here’s a quick refresher on what mental and emotional health is…




Due to health’s interconnected and multidimensional nature, mental and emotional health plays a key role in empowering individuals to thrive. The ability to identify and express feelings and emotions and having the skills to cope with life is vital to well-being. Without these skills, we creep through life merely surviving.


To help that sink in, let’s pause for a moment and think about everything connected to these skills: relationships of all types, school success, work success, physical health, and everything else in between. I am not exaggerating when I say it is if of the utmost necessity to teach students about mental and emotional health.



Okay, let me get off my soapbox. It’s time to talk about how you can actually use Inside Out in your classroom. 


Inside Out as a Teaching Tool


I’m not kidding when I say Inside Out is a must watch. As I mentioned early, this movie breaks down barriers and allows students to look at the deepest and darkest aspects of their well-being. It creates a space for students to understand the complexities of human emotion and feelings. It also gives students language and insight to better express what they are feeling and working through in both the lowest and highest moments of life.


Depending on your students’ age and life stories, the Inside Out experience is going to vary. There’s no shortage of themes and topics presented throughout the movie. So to make it a little less daunting, I thought I’d share the topics that spoke most to my students and their situations….


Check out this Bundle

Elementary grades

For the lower grades, I think it is valuable to use Inside Out as a tool for teaching the fundamentals of emotional and mental health. For example…

  • What are our different emotions?
  • What is the purpose of each emotion?
  • How do we express emotions we are feeling?
  • How can we recognize the emotion someone else is feeling? (body language, actions, words)


Middle School students

Along with the lower elementary grade teaching points, Inside Out can be used to teach students about…

  • Developing healthy coping strategies
  • Understanding how core memories shape our personality
  • Discussing how and why our personalities evolve and change as we grow up
  • Building empathy for others – as we have a chance to look into Riley’s brain we see that there are powerful reasons why we make the choices we make


Upper Middle School and Beyond

Building upon what has been taught in the previous grades, as students get older Inside Out provides an opportunity to teach kids about…

  • Mental health and how your mental health impacts each of the other components of your well-being
  • Understand how emotions guide us through life
  • Connect the value of possessing the language to express emotions as it relates to all areas of life (think: job success, relationship success, academic success)


Inside Out Lesson Plans, Inside Out Middle School, School Counselor, Health, Middle School

6th Grade after-movie worksheet


How I use Inside Out


So what exactly does this look like in the classroom??? Well, I just wrapped up my second round of teaching Inside Out, so let’s take a look at what I did. I began by choosing one specific focus for each grade level. There is so much going on in the movie and it is way too easy to overwhelm yourself and your students. Fight the temptation and just choose one topic. 


Here’s my topic choices – each based on of one of my Inside Out inspired worksheets



7th Grader pre-movie activity


And here’s a look at the 4ish hour lesson progression…

  • Lesson 1: Introduce the topic of mental and emotional health and prep students for viewing Inside Out
  • Lesson 2: Movie time! As students watch the movie, they will take notes specifically connected to the class focus
  • Lesson 3: After the movie’s over, it’s time for a class discussion and an Inside Out worksheet, again connected to their topic


Inside Out, Lesson Plans, Middle School, Health, School Counselor

Here’s a look at the 6th Graders pre and during movie activities


I really enjoyed this progression and method of using Inside Out – it was age appropriate, challenging, and entertaining. Of course using Inside Out will vary from teacher to teacher, which is the beauty of it. The possibilities are endless!


Inside & Out of Emotions and Mental Health! This is a must have bundle for every middle school classroom!

Check out this bundle!



Have you used Inside Out in your classroom? Or another movie like Zootopia (Plus Bonus Features) (Ooooh or Moana) but for that, we’ll have to wait until next year)? I’d love to hear all about it. Comment below or on FB and Instagram!


Click here to check out all of my Inside & Out of Emotional and Mental Health Resources


P.S. If you like this post, check out this post on Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Previous Story
Next Story

You Might Also Like


  • Reply
    Jen Koester
    May 2, 2017 at 6:25 pm

    Good evening! Thank you SO MUCH for your passion and all your hard work in creating this! I’ve been wanting to use this movie for lessons ever since it came out, but I just haven’t had the time to do so yet. I have a quick question, though – I purchased the bundle (I think it was $12 or something), and it came with a ton of great worksheets and guides, but I noticed some pictures on this page that are not included. Are those somewhere else? Do I need to purchase something different for the pre-movie and during movie activities? Thanks again! 🙂

    • Reply
      Janelle Kay
      May 4, 2017 at 6:02 pm

      Hey Jen!

      Thanks for posting and sending me an email! I can’t wait to see how it goes in your classroom!


    • Reply
      August 30, 2017 at 8:51 am

      I also purchased the bundle, but did not see the pictures from this post. How do I get the pre-movie and during movie activities?

      • Reply
        Janelle Kay
        August 31, 2017 at 10:45 am

        Hey Angie,

        Thanks for the note. I’m in the process adding the pre-movie & during movie activities to the existing products. If you send me an email at, we can figure out a way to get them to you!



  • Reply
    August 24, 2017 at 12:32 pm

    I’m trying to access the freebee sampler and it is telling me that I need a password. How might I get a password? Thank you 🙂

    • Reply
      Janelle Kay
      August 25, 2017 at 10:33 pm

      Hey Linda,

      Thanks for the interest in the discussion sampler. If you sign up for our newsletter, you’ll receive the access code! Click here to get access.

      Please let me know if you have any other questions!


  • Reply
    Tara Moore
    September 13, 2017 at 6:07 am

    I purchased the bundle. Received no confirmation email. Will it be mailed to my house or am I suppose to get online?

    • Reply
      Janelle Kay
      September 13, 2017 at 1:16 pm

      Hey Tara,

      I’m sorry for the delayed email delivery. It should arrive in your inbox directly after purchasing. I just resent your receipt. Please email me if you still cannot access your purchase – –

      Thank you and have a wonderful day,


  • Reply
    Catherine Fuchs
    January 4, 2018 at 8:46 am

    Hi Janelle,

    I purchased your bundle and love the material. I can’t wait to start teaching it to my 6th graders. I found the video on youtube, but I can’t find the link to the teaching powerpoint. Would you be able to help me with this? It would be really helpful if I had it.

    Thank you for doing what you do!

    • Reply
      Janelle Kay
      January 10, 2018 at 3:04 pm

      Hey Catherine,

      I’m so sorry that I’m just seeing this message! The link for the teaching PowerPoint should be at the top of the teaching direction page. If you are still having trouble finding it please email me at

      Again, I’m really sorry for the delay in responding.

      Have a great day,


  • Reply
    January 24, 2018 at 6:39 pm

    Hi Janelle, I’m experiencing the same problem, and I’m not able to access the PowerPoint or the video links in the document. How can I access these?

    • Reply
      Janelle Kay
      January 24, 2018 at 9:16 pm

      Hey Stephanie,

      I’m sorry for the inconvenience! Would you mind sending me an email at And I will help fix this issue.

      Thank you,


    Leave a Reply

    Website Malware Scan
    %d bloggers like this: