“…writer and director Pete Docter of Pixar reached out to us to talk over an idea for a film that would portray how emotions work inside a person’s head and at the same time shape a person’s outer life with other people. He wanted to do this all in the mind of an 11-year-old girl as she navigated a few difficult days in her life…. We ended up serving as scientific consultants for the movie, Inside Out, which was recently released.” D. Keltner and P. Ekman, The New York Times
ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key
Excerpt: The Science of ‘Inside Out’ Dacher Keltner and Paul Ekman, The NYT
“Our conversations with Mr. Docter and his team were generally about the science related to questions at the heart of the film: How do emotions govern the stream of consciousness? How do emotions color our memories of the past? What is the emotional life of an 11-year-old girl like? (Studies find that the experience of positive emotions begins to drop precipitously in frequency and intensity at that age.)
Riley’s personality is principally defined by Joy, and this is fitting with what we know scientifically. Studies find that our identities are defined by specific emotions, which shape how we perceive the world, how we express ourselves and the responses we evoke in others.
But the real star of the film is Sadness, for “Inside Out” is a film about loss and what people gain when guided by feelings of sadness. Riley loses friends and her home in her move from Minnesota.
Emotions organize — rather than disrupt — rational thinking. Traditionally, in the history of Western thought, the prevailing view has been that emotions are enemies of rationality and disruptive of cooperative social relations.
We see this in “Inside Out.” Sadness gradually takes control of Riley’s thought processes about the changes she is going through. This is most evident when Sadness adds blue hues to the images of Riley’s memories of her life in Minnesota. Scientific studies find that our current emotions shape what we remember of the past. Other studies find that it is anger (more so than a sense of political identity) that moves social collectives to protest and remedy injustice.”
Level: Intermediate – Advanced
Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.
Time: Approximately 2 hours.
Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.
Objective: Students will read and discuss the article with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.
I. Pre-Reading Activities
Predictions: Analyzing headings and photos
Directions: Have students examine the titles of the post and of the actual article. After they examine the photos, ask students to create a list of words and ideas that they think might be related to this article.
II. While Reading Tasks
Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.
- More poignantly, she has entered the preteen years.
- We do have some quibbles with the portrayal of sadness.
- Sadness is seen as a drag.
- How do emotions govern the stream of consciousness?
- The film is about how five emotions grapple for control of the mind of an 11-year-old girl.
- Riley’s personality is principally defined by Joy.
- The film shows the full array of emotions.
- An angry outburst causes Riley to storm upstairs.
- Sadness leads Riley to reunite with her parents.
- “Inside Out” offers a new approach to sadness.
Reading Comprehension: Fill-ins
Directions: Place students in groups and after they have read the entire article, have them complete the following paragraphs taken from the article. They can use the words and terms from the list provided, or provide their own terms. They are to find the meanings of any new vocabulary.
Other ___find that it is___(more so than a sense of
political identity) that___social collectives to protest and
remedy injustice. Research that one of us has ___has
found that expressions of ___trigger others to ___when we’ve
acted in ways that momentarily violate social norms.
This insight, too, is___ in the movie. You might be
___to think of sadness as a state defined by inaction and
passivity — the ___of any purposeful action. But in “Inside
Out,” as in real life, ___prompts people to unite in response
absence, embarrassment, studies, conducted, dramatized, sadness, anger, forgive, inclined, moves.
Grammar Focus: Using Adjectives to describe pictures
Directions: Have students choose a picture from this lesson and write a descriptive paragraph using adjectives.
III. Post Reading Tasks
Directions: Have students use the WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.
Who or What is the article about?
Where does the action/event take place?
When does the action/event take place?
Why did the action/event occur?
How did the action/event occur?
Directions: Place students in groups and have them answer the following questions. Afterwards, have the groups share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the following discussion topics.
1.The following statements were taken from the article. Rephrase each statement in your own words, then discuss the meaning with the members of your group.
“We do have some quibbles with the portrayal of sadness in “Inside Out.” Sadness is seen as a drag, a sluggish character that Joy literally has to drag around through Riley’s mind. In fact, studies find that sadness is associated with elevated physiological arousal, activating the body to respond to loss. And in the film, Sadness is frumpy and off-putting. More often in real life, one person’s sadness pulls other people in to comfort and help.”
“But the truth is that emotions guide our perceptions of the world, our memories of the past and even our moral judgments of right and wrong, most typically in ways that enable effective responses to the current situation. For example, studies find that when we are angry we are acutely attuned to what is unfair, which helps animate actions that remedy injustice.”
2. Which emotion is the most constant in your character? (e.g., anger, happiness, sadness,) Why do you think you feel this way most of the time?
Directions: Allow students 5 minutes to write down three new ideas they’ve learned about emotions from the reading, two things they did not understand in the reading, and one thing they would like to know that the article did not mention. Review the responses as a class.