How to Use Inside Out in Your Classroom

Ideas for Boosting Mental Health at Every Grade Level

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).


Using Inside Out to Teach Emotional & Mental 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

Using Inside Out in Elementary Health

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)



Using Inside Out in Middle School Health

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



Using Inside Out to Teach Health in High School

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)


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6th Grade after-movie worksheet



How I Use Inside Out to Teach Health


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!


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!


Buy our mega Inside & Out of Mental Health Bundle.


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


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Hello. I'm  Janelle!

A middle school health teacher turned curriculum developer. I'm on a mission to share the easiest-to-teach, most impactful health lesson plans on the Internet. Because your time and energy is better spent on teaching and connecting, not on planning and prep.


  1. Jen Koester on 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! 🙂

    • Janelle Kay on 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!


    • Angie on 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?

      • Janelle Kay on 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 [email protected], we can figure out a way to get them to you!



  2. Linda on 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 🙂

    • Janelle Kay on 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!


  3. Tara Moore on 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?

    • Janelle Kay on 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 – – [email protected].

      Thank you and have a wonderful day,


  4. Catherine Fuchs on 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!

    • Janelle Kay on 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 [email protected].

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

      Have a great day,


  5. Stephanie on 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?

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

      Hey Stephanie,

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

      Thank you,


  6. Jessica Gray on May 14, 2019 at 7:07 am

    I’ve done a project several times using Inside Out where I have my students draw their own emotion characters and Islands of Personality. I’ve done this with middle school, high school, and adults, and it’s always a really great discussion starter. This is one of my favorite movies ever, and I’m psyched about looking more closely and incorporating some of your ideas into future lessons using the movie.

    • Janelle Kay on May 25, 2019 at 8:05 pm

      Hey Jessica,

      That is so awesome to hear! Every time I watch it I’m more amazed at the genius of the storytelling!


  7. Laura on May 30, 2019 at 8:53 am

    Just out of curiosity…Disney is NOTORIOUS for going after teachers for using their videos as copyright infringement. They have closed their Education Products site, and I cannot see where Inside Out ever had a classroom edition. Can anyone tell me how they are addressing the copyright infringement issue of using a non-classroom edition DVD in their class? Thanks!

    • Janelle Kay on June 4, 2019 at 9:54 am

      Hey Laura,

      I’m sorry that I don’t have a better answer but I’d suggest asking someone at your district office for guidance. Each school district seems to have a different protocol for these types of situations.

      Again, sorry I couldn’t help more!


      • Kerrie Ward on August 16, 2019 at 12:58 am

        Hi Janelle,
        My name is Kerrie and I am currently volunteering (long term) in a Juvenile Detention Centre in Thailand. There are about 900 young people in the facility.
        I was wondering if I could email you privately regarding the use of your curriculum?

  8. Wandy Cheung on March 19, 2020 at 9:27 pm

    Thanks for sharing! It gave me some ideas for teaching a group of primary 4 students in HK remotely! We’re on the topic of “Living Healthily” and I do want students to know mental health is so important too!

    • Janelle Kay on March 20, 2020 at 7:43 am

      Hey Wandy,

      Thank you for connecting! I’m so glad it was helpful.

      Take care,


  9. Gillian Richardson on August 18, 2020 at 8:28 am

    Hello, just purchased the bundle and I’m going through it, Can’t wait to use it.
    In lesson #1 teaching powerpoint, , it mentions filling out “the emotional and mental health wedge on Step 2 of the Wellness Wheel”. Have I missed where this is? Is this not included in the bundle?

  10. […] Emotions, goal setting, empathy, relationship building, and decision making. Yes, please! I don’t think any teachers will debate the importance of social-emotional learning and these vital life skills. […]

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