Turning emotions Inside Out

Turning emotions Inside Out

Our curriculums have never been so crowded and our classrooms have never been busier. And so, in an increasingly data-driven teaching world, it’s become so easy for the social/emotional curriculum to get forgotten. If lessons don’t appear (at least obviously) to cover syllabus outcomes, they can so often get pushed to the side because we feel such pressure to prioritise lessons that will give us tangible evidence of learning outcomes and student academic growth.

But in an age where mental health is on the rise and anxiety amongst children is at an all-time high, in an age where our kids are more stimulated but less resilient than ever, I want to argue that those ‘life lessons’ are the MOST important lessons that we can teach our kids. We simply MUST prioritise the less tangible but far more important social/emotional life skills that our students so desperately need.

As educators, we have the incredible privilege to equip the next generation- but it is also an enormous responsibility. We teach kids how to read and write and work with numbers. We teach them to create and innovate and dream! But are we also equipping this next generation to cope with the many curve balls that life will throw at them? We need to break down barriers and create classrooms where our kids learn to be vulnerable. We need to de-stigmatise mental health and demystify emotions so that our kids are resilient, strong and ready to take on life!  

Using the "Inside Out" movie

Inside Out is a great tool to add to your repertoire when teaching kids about emotions.  Leading scholars on emotions have suggested that humans experience 7 main emotions: joy, sadness, anger, fear, disgust, contempt and surprise. Inside Out deals with the first five of these emotions by personifying each emotion and showing how these emotions interact with one another. It demonstrates how all emotions have a time and a place within our lives, and how our emotions influence our actions and decisions.

After watching Inside Out, use Y-charts and brainstorms to discuss what each emotion looks like/feels like/sounds like. You can books related to each emotion to help guide those discussions- I particularly recommend the ‘When I Am Feeling…’ series by Trace Moroney. You progressively add to an interactive display which includes your class definitions for each emotion, and strategies that the kids suggest to manage each emotion. It becomes such a great display to refer to for the remainder of the year.

It can also be fun to draw all of the characters using Art for Kids Hub’s amazing directed drawing tutorials on YouTube. 


I always begin with JOY. The ability to find joy in every day is one of the greatest skills we can nurture in our kids. We come up with a class definition and brainstorm some ways to help ourselves feel joyful when other emotions threaten to overtake our brains. We talk about putting on rose-coloured glasses and how to turn negative thoughts into positive ones. Joy looks different for everyone, but no matter what it looks like, it’s super important!


Next up is a firey emotion who can get in the way of finding joy sometimes. I absolutely love one kid’s description of ANGER: ‘it’s like a fierce tiger roaring in your belly, who is really hard to control sometimes’. 


The kids think about what makes them angry and what helps them to calm down. They add to their ‘book of emotions’ which is where the kids draw specific strategies that they can use when they feel each emotion.


Our next emotion that we tackle is SADNESS. We talk about how it’s normal and okay to feel sad, but how sadness can sometimes trick us into thinking that we are all alone. We brainstorm strategies to help ourselves when we feel sad- this might be sharing how we feel with someone, doing something that we enjoy, or just spending time with family and friends, even if we don’t want to talk.



We then move onto FEAR and look at how fear can look different for everyone- it could include sweaty palms, crying, feeling sick, or shortness of breath just to name a few. We discuss how fear can sometimes paralyse us, and we brainstorm strategies to help calm our hearts and our minds when we feel scared, worried or anxious. 


Our final emotion is DISGUST. We find this emotion the trickiest to define and to brainstorm strategies for. But we have some great discussions about how disgust includes thinking others aren’t good enough or putting others down… and as one kid once put it: ‘I reckon disgust is probably the meanest emotion’. Kids just get it, don’t they!

The Power of Inside Out

No matter how busy our classrooms schedules are, we all became teachers for a reason and we know that our job extends well beyond the curriculum that we report on. We know that our kids need to practise kindness and empathy, to learn to disagree with respect and grace, to own their mistakes, to make good choices and self-regulate. But where to start when teaching all of those important skills?! It can be very overwhelming, and so hard to know where to begin!

So, let me encourage you to start with Inside Out! It is an amazing resource for helping kids to begin to understand the beautiful intricacies of their brains and how they work, to be able to identify what their triggers are, and to develop the tools that they need to manage those emotions more effectively for the rest of their lives.

If you would like the templates mentioned in this blog post, you can download them for FREE in the Miss Learning Bee Freebee Library.  Click the image below to access your free download today.  

I also highly recommend the Trace Maroney series on feelings and emotions.