PrAACtical Thinking Magic Moments with Sentence Builder

Published on November 2nd, 2012 | by Carole Zangari

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Magic Moments with Sentence Builder

We were lucky enough to snag copies of Sentence Builder by AbiTalk when it was offered for free earlier this year and have had a great time with it. It comes with prepared lessons at two levels and the flexibility to create your own lessons. Here are some ideas for using the ready-made lessons to build language skills in AAC learners.

  1. Core Vocabulary: We’re always looking for ways to practice an initial lexicon of basic core words, like I, is, have, and can. These words appear with frequency in Sentence Builder, which makes it a great fit for learners working on that skill. Those of you using this app in a group may find that this offers a great opportunity for differentiating instruction in multi-level groups.Magic Moments with Sentence Builder
  1. Parts of Speech: In AAC therapy, we often focus on the part of speech since that it how many SGDs organize vocabulary. We like using the Sentence Builder screens to have the learner pick out all the words in a certain category (e.g., nouns, verbs). It helps them see how certain words fit into categories.
  1. Syntax: Some AAC learners have difficulty sequencing words into grammatically correct sentences. Syntax is not a spectator sport: You have to have access to the appropriate vocabulary and be able to experience creating sentences to learn this skill. Many of our kids are just now getting access to these things and, as a result, have some delays in syntactic development. Sentence Builder can be a fun way for them to practice putting words into the correct order.
  1. Expanding MLU: Sentence Builder screens often have a simple sentence (e.g., “Mary is eating”) followed by a longer one (e.g., “Mary is eating a lot”). This gives us a chance to talk about and practice ways of adding length and complexity to our sentences.
  1. Agree/Disagree: We often work with AAC learners to get them to practice saying whether something is right or wrong. It’s a skill that allows them to stick up for themselves, be more active participants in conversations, and respond to classroom discussions in a timely way. We used the ‘check’ feature of this app to practice that by having the learner predict the outcome. If they think that the answer is right, they can say “I agree,” “That’s right,” “Good idea,” or something like that. If they think the sentence is incorrect, they can practice saying “I disagree,” “That’s not right,” “I don’t think so,” etc.
  1. Semantics: We’re always looking for opportunities to expand vocabulary. Many of the Sentence Builder screens have commonly used words that we can use to practice finding and saying other, more interesting words. For example, AAC learners can be encouraged to find substitutes for words like good, hard, big, and happy. While you can’t make that substitution in the app itself (at least, not on the fly), we can say the new version out loud and bask in having a better option than the original one. Nothing says ‘motivation’ and ‘self esteem’ like out doing a grown up!

Although not designed for AAC or even special needs, Sentence Builder is a low cost app ($2.99 as of this writing) that has some good AAC applications. For a review of the app, visit Consonantly Speaking. Hope you have some fun Magic Moments with it!

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About the Author

Carole Zangari

Carole Zangari has been involved in the practice and teaching of AAC for over 20 years. She is a professor of speech-language pathology and has been fortunate to have been able to introduce many children and adults to the world of AAC. "Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing." Theodore Roosevelt



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