APA Dictionary of Psychology: The ice breaker

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In my previous blog post, I wrote, “All 25,000+ entries of the American Psychological Association (APA) Dictionary of Psychology are now freely available online. You may just want to let your students know that this resource exists and may be more trustworthy than other sources of definitions for psychological terms students find through a Google search.” Then I described an activity where students would look up terms and identify the most interesting ones to share with the class.

The APA Dictionary of Psychology can also be used for source terms in a popular ice breaker. In the Name Game ice breaker, when introducing themselves, the student says their first name and some word in a given category that starts with the first initial of their first name. If the category is animals, I would introduce myself as Sue the Snake. If the category is adjectives, I would introduce myself as Surprising Sue. If the category is hobbies, I would introduce myself as Skydiving Sue. No, I haven’t skydived, but I bet people would remember my name, though! The idea is to attach some imagery or emotion to a person and their name that will act as a retrieval cue later. Students may not remember “Sue,” but if they remember snake, surprising, or skydiving, the “s” may be enough of a retrieval cue to recall “Sue.” (If you do the Name Game ice breaker, consider revisiting why it works when you get to the memory chapter.)

For the Intro Psych Name Game ice breaker, students are to look up, using their web-enabled device, APA Dictionary of Psychology terms that start with the first letter of their first name. Students are looking for something in the definition of the term that connects with themselves. When students introduce themselves to the class (or introduce themselves to a group if you have a large section), students need to explain the term and why they chose it. Use this opportunity to talk more about the concept and what chapter it will appear in if it’s covered in your course. If it’s not a term your course covers, you can talk about what chapter it would appear in or what advanced psychology course it may appear in. (If your students are introducing themselves in groups, mingle with the groups to listen for the terms that they use. After groups are done with their introductions, share some of the terms you heard with the class as a whole.)

Before turning students loose to do this activity, use yourself as an example. Here are some examples I could use for me. I’ve specifically chosen these terms because I cover them in my course.

  • Somatosensory Area Sue. Soma means body. The somatosensory area of the brain is responsible for things like the sense of touch and kinesthesia (knowing where my limbs are positioned). It allows me to feel this marker and know that my arm is raised. We’ll cover the somatosensory area in the neuroscience chapter.

  • Sleep Hygiene Sue. Sleep hygiene is doing what you need to do in order to get good sleep. I chose it because getting good sleep is incredibly important. We’ll cover sleep in the neuroscience chapter.

  • Social Learning Sue. Social learning is the learning that “is facilitated through social interactions with other individuals.” I chose it because in this course, you’re going to be working a lot in groups and learning with and through your peers. We’ll cover social learning in the learning chapter.

  • Social Psychology Sue. Social psychology is about how we influence others and how others influence us. I chose it because my degree is in social psychology. That means that I’m not a psychotherapist. We’ll cover social psychology in the… wait for it… social psychology chapter.

As I wrote in the previous blog post on using the , “With over 25,000 terms in this dictionary, it’s likely that students will come up with something you’ve never heard of. Now is a good time to practice the humility that’s necessary when teaching Intro Psych. Students generate a lot of questions in this course. The chances that they will ask something you don’t know about is very likely. It’s okay to say, ‘I don’t know.’ If it’s in the area of something that you do know, add what you do know.”

The conclusion is the same as the previous post.

“Through this activity, students will get a sense of how broad of a field psychology is and how much area the Intro Psych course is going to cover, and you will learn a bunch of new concepts. What’s not to love about that?”

About the Author
Sue Frantz has taught psychology since 1992. She has served on several APA boards and committees, and was proud to serve the members of the Society for the Teaching of Psychology as their 2018 president. In 2013, she was the inaugural recipient of the APA award for Excellence in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning at a Two-Year College or Campus. She received in 2016 the highest award for the teaching of psychology--the Charles L. Brewer Distinguished Teaching of Psychology Award. She presents nationally and internationally on the topics of educational technology and the pedagogy of psychology. She is co-author with Doug Bernstein and Steve Chew of Teaching Psychology: A Step-by-Step Guide, 3rd ed. and is co-author with Charles Stangor on Introduction to Psychology, 4.0.