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A Teachable Moment for Emotions

Valentine’s Day is all about emotions, which creates a natural opportunity for discussing and learning about emotional empathy. Scroll down for this week’s VTip on autism, with insights and lesson examples for teaching emotions.

What’s the Challenge?

As I scanned through pictures of Olympic athletes (a treasure trove of emoting), I realized that while I knew that this grimace was of overwhelming happiness, while that one was overwhelming sorrow—I had absolutely no idea of how I recognized the difference. It was an enlightening moment. Although I had understood on an intellectual level that emotion recognition and awareness were difficult to teach, it wasn’t until I tried to create lessons for it that I got some insight as to how incredibly difficult it must be for a person without that innate ability to have to “learn” how to read emotion.

Why Is it Important?

Being able to recognize emotions—understanding the facial and body language that make us aware of what somebody else is feeling–is key to understanding and communicating with others effectively. Most people with autism have to be made aware of the emotional subtext around them, and have to be specifically taught to recognize the subtle (and even not-so-subtle) cues that clue us in to what others are feeling. It is a daunting task (for both the student and the teacher).

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How to Meet the Challenge

The old saw that a picture is worth a thousand words is in this case an understatement. Only by seeing many, many examples, learning what emotions are attached to each, and having them filed away for mental comparison can somebody even begin to “learn” to read emotion. And if a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video is worth a million.

Check out how some VizZle lesson creators have tackled the challenge, from the very basic (happy vs. sad) to the more subtle and broader ranges of human emotion.

  • Emotions, VizZle ID Number: 24355
    Images and text, with audio and video examples, about how people express emotion with body language, voice pitch and tone, and facial expression, 24 pages with numerous popups and quizzes
    (No access to VizZle? Click here for a browser version—remember to maximize your browser and click play at the bottom.)

  • Olympic Happy and Sad , VizZle ID Number: 10261
    Images and text labels of Olympic athletes displaying the emotions happy and sad, with a Thomas the Tank Engine short video about happy and sad on the last page, 14 pages
    (No access to VizZle? Click here for a browser version—remember to maximize your browser and click play at the bottom.)

  • Olympic Emotions , VizZle ID Number: 10264
    Images and text w/audio labels of Olympic athletes displaying a full gamut of emotions, with a video called Olympic Emotion on the last page, and a custom celebration, 32 pages
    (No access to VizZle? Click here for a browser version—remember to maximize your browser and click play at the bottom.)

  • How Do They Feel?, VizZle ID Number: 15728
    Text and recorded audio question (e.g., “How do you think the dog feels?”) with video clip TO image w/text label of feeling (emoticon), field of 2 choices with set distractors, 5 pairs
    (No access to VizZle? Click here for a browser version—remember to maximize your browser and click play at the bottom.)

  • Generalization: Happy , VizZle ID Number: 15765
    Text directive (i.e., “Find Happy”) TO photo image of happy people, field of 3 choices with set distractors, 17 pairs
    (No access to VizZle? Click here for a browser version—remember to maximize your browser and click play at the bottom.)

What people are saying about vizZle

“My favorite thing about VizZle is how motivating it is to students…
They don’t even realize they are working and learning at times!”

Katie Deneke, SLP
Brunswick School District
Brunswick, OH

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