Philosophy of Emotion

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Area: Film
Grade Level: High School & Beyond, Middle School, Primary/Elementary School
Topics: Emotion
Estimated Time Necessary: 1 hour

Lesson Plan

To investigate the role of emotions in life

Stimulus: Play the short film ‘Alike’ (found in the Video Tab above) as the stimulus for the lesson

Sharing: Generate concepts/questions/ideas that come from the film. These can be anything at this stage. They might include: why did they change colours? It was about feeling sad. It was about how bad school is.

Younger children are likely to naturally focus on the emotions represented in the film, especially because they are visually represented with colour. This may generate ideas about what it means to be happy/sad/angry.

Questions like those found on the Discussion Questions tab are likely to arise.

Students begin to generate the inquiry for the class by working their way towards the kinds of questions mentioned here. These student generated questions will guide the discussion going forward. This is a conceptual analysis of emotions: we are attempting to discover what emotions are, as well as how they play a role in our lives. The kids can problematise what emotions are and work towards a greater understanding of emotions here.

Discussion: Discuss the concepts that have come up and follow lines of inquiry that are particularly diffractive/different/unique (eg. I had a child once say sleeping was an emotion). These types of ideas will be particularly useful in gaining traction towards a better understanding of the concept of emotion (especially because kids will start yelling ‘sleeping isn’t an emotion’ > well then, why isn’t it an emotion…). Once students begin reasoning about their ideas, they become more perceptible to all others. The student who said sleeping is an emotion reasoned that emotions had three parts: emotions affected how you feel, emotions affect your mood, and emotions affected your level of wellbeing. From these three criteria for emotions, he argued that sleeping affects how you feel because you are usually peaceful and serene during sleep, it affects your mood because if you do not get enough sleep you will be in a bad mood, and it affects your wellbeing because you need sleep in order to function properly and live a good life.

Opening the floor to students through open clarifying questions will allow them to express their ideas in a way that is understandable to the class. This is also the case when students’ reasoning is poor, as it allows themselves as well as others to see the reasoning behind the idea is weak and they should perhaps modify their thoughts. Simple clarifying questions such as ‘could you explain why you think thinking is an emotion’ or ‘by what criteria are you claiming that sleeping is an emotion’ will give students space to clarify their thinking and provide understandings that the group can work with.

Follow the kids strongly in this discussion. They are the ones who really get to generate the questions as well as answer them. Because the stimulus is a video, they are usually very responsive during the discussion and able to connect to a variety of things. It’s unlikely you’ll have to direct them too much.

Developing Criteria: Based on your discussion points, try to form a list of what counts as an emotion, what doesn’t count, and what we can’t decide on. Kids will likely have some criteria formed for what counts as an emotion and can use that to categorise things as emotions or not

Review & Reflect: Has our idea about what an emotion is changed?



Discussion Questions

  • What are emotions?
  • Why do we have emotions?
  • What do it mean to show an emotion?
  • Are emotions just things we feel?
  • How do emotions differ from other things that happen to our body/mind?
This lesson plan was created for PLATO by: Ben Kilby.

This work is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

If you would like to change or adapt any of PLATO's work for public use, please feel free to contact us for permission at