How We Do It: Incorporating Core Vocabulary Throughout the School Day
It is wonderful to see the ways that SLPs and educators are collaborating to support AAC implementation in the classroom. Today, we hear from SLP Kristen Ponce who works at the Gerner Family Early Education Center in the Park Hill School District in Kansas City, Missouri. Kristen has a particular interest in working with preschoolers with autism and AAC needs and is passionate about teaching her students to become competent and independent communicators. In this post, she shares her experiences in collaborating with classroom teachers to promote the use of AAC throughout the school day.
Incorporating Core Throughout the School Day
The majority of my caseload is preschoolers who have autism spectrum disorder and who use AAC. We usually introduce communication and how to use an AAC device through learning to request. It is easy to teach that communication is fun when you have a very tangible and motivating item to connect that meaning to; but, you can’t stay at requesting forever. It’s getting beyond that requesting phase that can be difficult. Communication has to be fun. It has to be motivating. How do you do that if you’re not requesting? Enter core vocabulary! While core vocabulary has always been a focus in my individual therapy session, there was not always a lot of generalization of those skills to the classrooms. I am so excited that this year, one of my fantastic classroom teachers is embracing core and diving in head first!
To create this core word experience, we have created several different facets.
First, we created our word list based on the words we thought would get us the most bang for our buck and the words that we felt our preschoolers needed to know. We then took those words and created structured teaching experiences. We pulled together some very simple activities with materials we had laying around and paired them with a core word. These are taught to the whole class for 1-2 minutes at the end of gathering time. The teacher models the word on her smartboard and the students each use their own individual devices. Some examples of the words and activities we have used are: a balloon for up; a wind-up toy for go; and a preschool favorite toy, the spin stacker, for turn.
The second layer of this is the classroom challenge. All adults in the classroom have been challenged to use the target word as many times as they can throughout the day. There are visuals posted around the classroom to give ideas on how to continuously incorporate the word of the week throughout the day.
The third layer is the parents. Parents are informed at the end of each week what the core of the week will be. They are given some simple examples of ways to use the word at home and then encouraged to share ideas and suggestions on the classroom website. This helps other parents see how someone else may use the word that they may not have thought of.
Within the first week of implementation, we had multiple students who spontaneously used the core word in a different setting within the school beyond their classroom. We had several parents sharing suggestions and asking for ideas.
Our goal is to increase core word usage not only at school but at home as well. My personal goal is to be able to build upon these core words and teach students how to combine them in different ways to form simple phrasal verbs and core word sentences. I am so excited about all the possibilities of this new endeavor! With the whole team involved, parents, teachers, and therapists the possibilities for this are endless.
About the Guest Blogger
Kristen Ponce is a Speech-Language Pathologist for the Gerner Family Early Education Center in the Park Hill School District in Kansas City, Missouri. She received her master’s degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders from Rockhurst University in 2013. Kristen has a particular interest in working with preschoolers with autism as well as preschoolers who use AAC devices. Kristen has a passion for teaching her students to become competent and independent communicators. She has piloted several different forms of AAC groups in the preschool setting as well as pushed for increased literacy instruction for AAC learners. She is the author of the blog AAC to the Core describing her experiences working with students with complex communication needs who use AAC. You can follow Kristen’s blog at http://aactothecore.com/ or follow her on Instagram at @aac_to_the_core
This post was written by Carole Zangari