A Year of Core Vocabulary Words

January 8, 2013 by - 12 Comments

A Year of Core Vocabulary Words
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As clinicians, we frequently ask ourselves how we can help AAC learners become fluent with their core vocabulary words. A big part of the answer can be summed up in a word: Focus. The more we focus on those words, the more we can impact learning.

There are lots of things competing for our attention, though, and sometimes we get distracted. Then it came to us: Visual supports work for SLP’s, too! When we saw another blogger post visual supports for sight word reading, we knew the idea had prAACtical application. So, we created 12 grids of core vocabulary words – one for each month of the year. Each grid has 12 cells labeled with core words. Plug in the AAC symbols that your client uses (e.g., PCS, SymbolStix, Unity, Pixons, etc), print, laminate, and keep them handy. Feel free to adapt the grids with other core words, if you wish, or do anything else that makes them more useful in your work.

Then, post the grid of the month where you will see it as a way to remind yourself to:A Year of Core Vocabulary Words

  1. Use aided language input and model these words for the learners using their AAC systems.
  2. Elicit these 12 words in everyday routines.
  3. Develop practice activities, like hiding the symbols in a sensory tub or playing Lotto
  4. Look for them in songs and chants. Highlight them and pause expectantly to get the AAC learner to say them.
  5. Send them home to families so they can see what your focus is and extend the learning.
  6. Share them with other professionals on the team. The power behind a core vocabulary approach is that these words are as appropriate in speech as they are in PT, reading group, music therapy, or community-based instruction.
  7. Don’t leave the paraprofessionals out of the mix. If we nurture those relationships and build their skills over time, they can be our biggest allies. When you consider how much time they spend with our AAC friends, it’s clear that they have the potential for enormous impact.
  8. Give a set to the learner, too. Don’t we all do best when we know what is expected of us?
  9. Use the core words in writing. Jot some notes to the AAC learner once in awhile. As he/she reads the note, ask him/her to stop when they see a core word and say it out loud. Or, have them listen to you read it and they can stop you when they hear a core word. Then use the AAC system to say the core word aloud.
  10. Keep track of how often you hear the core words, and make your score sheet visible to everyone on a bulletin board or clip board. A little competition could spice things up for some AAC learners.

Hope you enjoy your ‘Year of Core Words.”

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This post was written by Carole Zangari


  • In just a very short time, you have become my hero! Absolutely love this blog!

    • Avatar photo Carole Zangari says:

      What a wonderful comment to wake up to! Thanks, Andrea! Stay tuned for a follow-up post on this topic with some additional resources.

  • Dana says:

    I wonder if there is a way to create these monthly word boards within Proloquo2go so that those pic syms can be used in these lessons…. Then everything would be altogether with the communication system, on an ipad… just thinking out loud.

    • Avatar photo Carole Zangari says:

      Dana, that’s a good idea and I think some clinicians are probably doing just that kind of thing. We will be sharing those that we know about in a future post. There are so many SGDs, AAC apps, and symbol types that it would take a boatload of time to create one for each, but if people who are doing these for their own clients, we can certainly share them here so that all can benefit.

  • Anne Mahoney says:

    Carol, I have been using your monthly charts with SFY. I took screen shots of needed screens, enlarged them with Windows Photo Live, and cut and pasted icon after icon on the charts. I kept dreaming about having the icons available at stickers! How great that would be.

    Now I will have the charts copied so that my daughter and I each have this great resource for my grandson. It’s helping me learn and model SFY.

    Thank you for all of the wonderful support and valuable resources you provide.


    • Avatar photo Carole Zangari says:

      Anne, thanks so much for sharing this! We’re always so excited to hear how different people are using the materials we post. So glad to hear this was helpful to you, your daughter, and little grandson!

  • Inge says:

    Hello my son is 4 I need help teaching him the proloquo / language / layout we purchased 2 years ago. Also when / where is their s conference. Wny

    • Avatar photo Carole Zangari says:

      Inge, you may want to work with a speech language pathologist who knows that app and ask him/her to train you on how to use it to help your child. Every child is so different that you need someone who can look at the specific ways in which your son will learn best. The company who makes it, Assistiveware, can help you find a clinician in your area who knows the app. They also have some active Facebook groups where things like this are addressed. I’m sure if you go on there and search, a few of those will pop up and you can decide which ones to check out. This is an old post, but you can find some links here: http://praacticalaac.org/praactical/teach-me-tuesday-proloquo2go/ . I don’t think they have a conference, but they do present at conferences put on by other organizations, like ATIA and ASHA. Best of luck!

  • Kara says:


    I work in a classroom with aprox. half of my students this year learning devices. I use your monthly core words as a great guide for myself and EA’s in daily communication and targeted practice.
    However, since some of my students do not use devices they are working off the dolch word lists for their sight words. I am wondering if you know about how many are cross over between the two lists. I recognize most of them as being on dolch/fry however I’m wondering if in creating this you used dolch/fry at all or if there is any correlation at all.
    I was about to sit down and go through and look myself but figured why not ask first 🙂
    Thank you for your wonderful resource!

  • AAC says:

    Where is the download?

  • The link to the actual list of core words is not functioning. Please update as this is a very valuable resource. Thank you! 🙂

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