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Thinking “Inside Out” — How Could I Use This In A Lesson?


Robert Krulwich had another thought-provoking column at NPR yesterday — Inside-Out Your Mind.

He shares a number of excellent examples, including the video I’ve embedded below, that encourage people to be creative by thinking the opposite — “inside-out.”

I always found that exercise very useful when I was a community organizer. One example was when we preparing for a candidates forum, but we didn’t want to do the usual routine of trotting the candidates out, asking them their positions on our proposals, and then ending it there. Those were certainly productive, but we had already done quite a few of them.

So we considered what would be the opposite of what we usually did. We ended up bringing the candidates in and, instead of having them tell us what they thought, we had people provide testimony on the issues that were important to them and how it affected their lives. Then, candidates had to share what they heard, and our members publicly graded them on their listening ability. It was a great action!

I’ve also used this method to help me be creative in dealing with classroom management issues.

But now I’m trying to think of how I could use this as a lesson. It could certainly be useful in my IB Theory of Knowledge class when we study “perception.” However, there just has to be a way for me to use it with my mainstream students, but I’m not coming up with anything.

Any ideas?

Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.


  1. I love these ideas. The same situations exist in visual art (figure ground reversal), math (palindrome numbers, commutative property, identity property), topology (Moebus strips) and figures of speech (oxymorons). I would love to ask students to brainstorm on things that have valid mirror images or reversals. Even better, have an event similar to what preschools call “Backwards Day” where they reverse assumptions, clothes, meals, and roles. As you collect more and more examples of things that are or could be valid in reverse/flipped/inside out form, your students may offer ideas that challenge and invert thinking. I would give awards to the most surprising and the most elegantly-obvious-yet-hidden ideas. I’d fill the room from the middle (not the bulletin boards) with examples and document of all of it. Save it somewhere that they can add to it like a graffiti wall..long after that day ( wiki?).

    After all of this, when their minds are starting to notice such things on their own, ask students to look for cultural examples of inversions like the doctor/wellness story from China or to imagine solutions to some of society’s ills using such inversions. In a political year, this challenge could really be fun.

    My former gifted students would have made an entire unit out of this and probably turned the playground upside down or inside out in the process. What would inside out playground equipment look like?

    Have fun!

  2. “Inside-Out” is a type of analysis and synthesis in Bloom’s taxonomy. I sometimes ask students to rewrite the story they just read with the antagonist as the hero. Another option might be to rewrite the end of a story with the characters making a different or opposite decision. In learning to argue or persuade, ask students to think like their opponent or someone who disagrees with them. This idea of inside out is an analogy that students can relate to! I liked it!

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