Ideas for parent night or open discussion time with parents

Try these ideas when talking with parents

By Kimberly Patterson, MS

Are you looking for ways to fill parent night or open discussion time with parents? Does your school have a curriculum fair or a registration night?

Here are a few activities that can help psychology teachers fill in gaps of time when talking with parents, guardians, or people from the community. These are presented as mini-sessions that can last five to 15 minutes.

5-minute activities
  • Define psychology. Ask parents for the definition of psychology. Then, clarify the definition of psychology as “the scientific study of behavior and mental processes.” Explain what makes psychology a science (i.e., using the scientific method) and discuss careers in psychology. 

  • Share examples of student work from previous years; pass them around to show parents some of the items their student will complete. Be sure to include written assessment examples. **Names will need to be removed due to privacy issues. Always comply with your school/district policies. 

  • At the end of the year, have students write a letter to future students titled “How to be successful in (AP) Psychology.” Pass the letters around for the parents to read so they will know some of the traits of successful students (i.e., reading the text, always being prepared for lectures) and see the array of items students will be learning throughout the year as a psychology student (i.e., neuroscience, emotion, motivation, sensation, intelligence).

10-minute activities 
  • Pass around a few textbooks and have parents work in pairs to find interesting items from the text that their student will be learning about in the psychology classroom. Discuss briefly. 

  • Present a brief PowerPoint presentation highlighting major psychological concepts (about four to five slides with items like major contributors, famous experiments).

15-minute activities 
  • Conduct a psychology scavenger hunt: Place pictures or cards in easily locatable places around your classroom. Give parents the attached handout with information to clarify some of the normal misconceptions about our science and various aspects of it. 

  • Ask parents/adults real-world prompts related to psychology. Examples include:

- Are people a product of their genetics or their environment?

- Is it better to know a little about many subjects or to know a lot about one subject?

- In what ways has the media influenced society and you?

- Can you tell a person’s character by the way he or she dresses?

Goals: Inform parents what students will learn in psychology and how students will learn about psychology and promote the notion of psychological science. Any of these activities can be stretched out with discussion. Please employ them to meet your needs.

Scavenger hunt misconceptions

Misconception #1: Freud is the father of psychology.

In actuality, Wilhelm Wundt is the father of psychology based on his initial experiment in Leipzig, Germany focusing on reaction time in his psychology laboratory in 1879. Freud is, however, the father of psychoanalysis.

Misconception #2: Psychology is just about dreams and rats.

The field of psychology is based on historical and contemporary approaches, research methods, neuropsychology, development through the life span, sensation and perception, states of consciousness, learning, cognition, intelligence, motivation, emotion, health, personality, disorders and therapies, and social psychology. While those are the prime areas of study for a high school psychology course, other areas include forensic psychology, human factors psychology and technology and media.

Misconception #3: Psychology is common sense and obvious.

Highlighting hindsight bias and overconfidence is crucial to understanding how people find items “surprising” or not. One hundred years ago, most of the things we now consider common sense were not known, yet people frequently think all of psychology is well-known information. Much of psychology is focused on debunking what people think is factual but empirical evidence shows is not.

Misconception #4: People use 10 percent of their brain. Imagine if we used it all!

We do! People use almost all of their brain — however, not at the same time. Various parts of the brain are responsible for diverse aspects of cognition, physiology, and, by and large, intelligence. Students will learn about the parts of the brain and nervous system and how it is related to the ways people behave and think.

Misconception #5: People with schizophrenia have multiple personalities.

The term schizophrenia literally means “split mind” rather than split personalities. It is a common misunderstanding that they are the same thing when, in fact, they are two completely different disorders. Furthermore, there are five types of schizophrenia: paranoid, catatonic, disorganized, residual and undifferentiated.