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Review by Vicki Windman , Common Sense Education | Updated May 2014

Discovering Emotions with Zeely

Kids learn feelings with cute characters, familiar settings

Subjects & skills

  • Communication & Collaboration
  • Character & SEL
Grades This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
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Pros: Cute characters and simple layout let kids operate independently while learning about emotions.

Cons: Steep price tag might deter some users.

Bottom Line: Charming graphics and solid games give kids great lessons in emotional development.

Teachers can use this app to introduce feelings and facial expressions. As kids work independently, the teacher can have kids model facial expressions by using a mirror. Kids can practice looking at themselves with the mirror and observing how their facial expression changes with different emotions. Depending upon the age group, teachers can expand the concept to asking kids when and why they feel a certain way.

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Discovering Emotions with Zeely is an easy-to-use app that uses guided instruction to help kids recognize and interpret facial expressions. It can benefit kids who are nonverbal or have difficulty interpreting facial expressions. Directions are clear and simple, allowing kids to navigate independently through the four familiar recreation areas and guiding them through seven emotions using different cultures, ages, and genders to understand sad, happy, disgusted, surprised, fear, anger, and pride. In between emotions, kids play a game to help them refocus and continue the activity.

Tap one of the four settings, and you're ready to learn about emotions. Obo, the main character, is a handheld game remote who guides kids through each emotion. After you choose the setting, you're sent into outer space with Obo and Zeely the astronaut. First, Obo shows you a face with a feeling. Next, a magnifying glass hovers over each part of the face to reinforce what the mouth, eyes, and eyebrows look like for seven emotions. After the guided instruction, kids are led to a variety of faces. They drag the eyes, nose, and mouth onto the face to reinforce the facial expression. After four expressions, kids are given a puzzle break. Kids have to put tracks back onto a track reinforcing eye-hand and fine motor skills. The amusement park should be played last, as this setting is a post-evaluation of the feelings.

Kids can learn how to identify emotions and practice recognizing different facial expressions. This is particularly helpful for kids with nonverbal and social pragmatic learning issues that may include difficulty understanding and reading facial expressions, as well as with eye contact. The app uses real faces and guided instruction, and kids have a choice of four areas: movies, playground, museum, and amusement park. Kids go through each setting independently using the clear instructions and repetition. Discovering Emotions with Zeely is a fun and innovative way to help kids learn how to identify emotions.

Overall, this app lets kids independently manipulate real faces with real emotions. Using repetition is beneficial for kids who need practice with understanding emotions and facial expressions. Kids will enjoy moving facial stickers onto real faces to create a feeling face. Having a distracter built in helps kids who may struggle with attentional issues. Teachers will appreciate the easy-to-read data with clear graphics displaying accuracy and the time it took the child to complete the task. Discovering Emotions with Zeely combines realistic facial expressions, adorable characters, and guided instruction to give kids an engaging way to learn about emotions.

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

Adorable Zeely and giggling background sounds reel kids in. They'll be engaged by the opportunity to view real people from different cultures and genders as they decipher the differences among seven emotions.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

The app's multidimensional approach with visual, auditory, and kinesthetic tools helps kids understand what feelings are and what facial features look like when someone is sad, disgusted, happy, angry, and so on.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

The app is easy to use. Teachers go to the settings to get access to the support page, where they can view data and reset the game if they're using the app with more than one child.

Common Sense Reviewer
Vicki Windman Special education instructor

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