Monday, June 22, 2015

10 Tips for Incorporating Inside Out In Class

Last week was a busy one, with tons of possibilities for blogging.

Tuesday, June 16 was our So You Think You Can Dance extravaganza at school.

Wednesday, June 17 was the TDSB Leadership Appreciation event at Spirales.

Thursday, June 18 was the Agnes Macphail P.S. Volunteer Tea celebration.

I chose, however, to write about the one that happened last. On Friday, June 19, the primary division students and I used their proceeds from their epic restaurant project to go see the movie Inside Out. This was a fantastic movie. I laughed and cried. (I also spent the last half of the movie with a Grade 1 cuddled in my lap, but that's another story.) The great thing is that the film inspired me for so many activities and follow-ups we can do in class. Here are just ten possible topics for investigation. We only have a week left of school, so unfortunately, I won't be trying all ten, but this is just off  the top of my head. (Spoilers ahead, so read with caution!)

1. What are your core memories?

In the film, certain memories or moments are extra-special. Their orbs glow extra bright and are stored in a special container. These become "core memories" and are what help shape the individual's personality. They also have certain colours (or, as we see at the end, colour blends) to indicate the primary emotion associated with that memory. Give students 3 circles on a paper (about the size of a fist) and have them consider what significant events might make up their core memories. Draw a scene from that core memory in your circle. Then decide what colour best represents that memory. (In the film, the main emotions and colours are joy = yellow, sadness = blue, anger = red, fear = purple, and disgust = green.)

2. Anticipation / Reaction guide

Before seeing the film, provide students with a list of assertions with an agree/disagree chart in the middle. Statements like:
- Everyone has emotions
- Being sad is not healthy
- Emotions impact our actions
- Feelings about an event can change with time
- Memories are permanent
would get the students to think about some of the ideas inherent in the movie. The same survey can be completed after watching the movie and discussed.

3. Truth or fiction in Volcano Formation

The short Pixar film that plays before Inside Out is called Lava. Students can recall all the different things that volcanoes are shown to do in the film and then do some research to discover how true the depictions might be.

4. Comparing Media Texts about the Movie

On the trip, my students collected artifacts related to the movie: a free newspaper with a movie review of the film, a movie magazine at the theatre profiling the film, and even a Disney store display sign promoting the film. Examine these different media texts. Who is the audience? What is the purpose? How are they similar or different? Can you write a movie review for Inside Out? What would it include? How do you discuss the film without spoilers? Here's an example of a movie review:  

5. Comparing Venues & Calculating Costs

My students created a restaurant and earned money. The profits from their restaurant paid for their trip. One activity we actually did prior to our trip was to create huge Venn diagrams and compare real-life movie theatres and real-life restaurants. How do their purpose, audience, and messages differ? What's the same? I also realized that I was too generous with allowing adult chaperons and I think I went over budget - maybe I should have a Math Congress to determine how many adults I should have had on the trip.

6. Story in Song

Lava is a 7 minute story told completely in song. How effective is the story telling through song? Why is the choice of instrument, words, and singers so important to the tale? Can the students create a musical version of a legend? Could they animate it? Here's a link to an article about the making of the short: 

7. Growing Up In Your Brain

Riley is the "main character" in Inside Out. (Note: this is an arguable point, since it's actually Riley's emotions that are the bulk of the movie's plot.) She is 11 years old. Often, when we talk about growing up, we focus on what happens to our physical bodies. The film shows how Riley's mind "grows up" - and that's not even counting that big "PUBERTY" button sitting on the new revised console that the emotions are tempted to push. Draw or describe what a baby's brain might look like, a child, a teenager, and an adult. What personality islands might stay the same? Which ones might disintegrate? Here's an article asking psychologists about their opinion of the movie:

8. Long Term Memory, Abstraction & Other Complicated Ideas

Why do we forget things? How do we understand concepts like loneliness? Why did the movie select those five emotions to personify? The movie decides to depict these things in very clear visual ways, that are actually based on how the brain works. Have students develop alternate metaphors to the ones provided in the film (e.g. instead of "train of thought" or globes being pushed up through tubes into your conscious thoughts, remembering is like ...) The creators of the movie consulted with emotional researcher Dr. Paul Eckman - you can read briefly about the inspiration here. Do you agree with the emotions represented? Who got left out that should be there? Can anyone be replaced? What might happen if you lost Fear, or Disgust? 

9. Who's in your driver's seat?

My daughter noticed this when we discussed the movie afterwards. The emotion that is in charge of Riley's "control panel" is Joy. When you get a glimpse into the mind-space of her parents, you may notice that the chief emotion handling the controls for Riley's mom is Sadness, and for her dad, Anger is the driving force. What emotion is your driving force? Provide some scenarios. What would the driving emotions in your head be saying or thinking?

10. Stuck in your head

A gum commercial is a memory that is inexplicably "stuck" in Riley's head and pops in at odd moments. According to the film, it's due to maintenance workers having fun. I know I've had the chorus to Lava playing in my head all weekend ("I have a dream / I hope it comes true / That you'll be with me / And I'll be with you ..."). What causes memories or moments to be "sticky" like this? Do we have similar "sticky" memories? What moments from this school year might prove to be sticky?

There are so many more that are possible - I didn't even touch on the part involving "emotional manipulation" or "imaginary friends" - but I hope you'll agree that this film has great possibilities for teaching and learning in the classroom. 

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