School Year of Core Vocabulary Words: Introducing “Lessons for Older Students”

December 18, 2023 by - Leave your thoughts

School Year of Core Vocabulary Words: Introducing "Lessons for Older Students"
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For over a year, we’ve had an interest in a version of the School Year of Core Vocabulary Words suited for students in middle school, high school, and beyond. Michaela Sullivan and her colleagues have been hard at work at that, and we’re excited to share the addition of those monthly posts starting in just a few weeks. Look for target words for two levels of communicators, symbol grids, activities for teaching and practicing those words, data collection forms, and helpful information on implementation strategies each month. Today, Michaela and Lindsay Dougherty introduce you to their newest version of these wonderful resources.

School Year of Core Vocabulary Words: Introducing “Lessons for Older Students”

by Michaela Sullivan and Lindsay Dougherty

Welcome back to a new School Year of Core Series – SYOC-Older Student Lessons

by Michaela Sullivan, M.A. CCC-SLP and Lindsay Dougherty, M.S. CCC-SLP

To the parents, teachers, Speech-Language Pathologists, Para Professionals, friends, and other curious professionals or communicators: if you’re looking for core vocabulary resources for older students and adults (middle school through adulthood), you are in the right place! Introducing The SYOC Older Student Lessons, (also referred to as SYOC-OSLs) provided in a modifiable Google Slides format.

Happy Holidays to you all!  You are amazing!  Thank you for taking the time to research AAC (Augmentative Alternative Communication) and core word resources for your students, patients, friends, or loved ones.  You hold so much power. Connection is a two-way street. Thank you for joining us in helping to make this world easier to understand for persons who use AAC. We continue to be completely inspired by persons who use and help support AAC users and all of the ways we can reach each other with these life-changing strategies and supports. We are so excited to share our newest passion project with you. We wish you all a wonderful year ahead. 

So, you may be wondering, ‘Why are we hearing about the School Year of Core (SYOC) again?’ Well, here’s why. In 2021, after the Original SYOC posting, we realized that our resources, although robust, were created for a younger population and were compelled to create resources for a more ‘underserved’ population of older students and adult learners.  So, one Speech-Language Pathologist, (Michaela Sullivan) and four incredible 2nd-year student interns from San Francisco State University (Lindsay Dougherty, Jadine Veluya, Joseph Cachapero, and Christelle Marcelo), now all certified SLPs, worked tirelessly over a one-year period (2021-2022) to create these lessons. Over the next few years, the lessons were vetted and edited by Ms. Sullivan and Ms. Dougherty. (In later postings, interns from SF State also assisted in edits, and we will acknowledge and thank them in the postings they contributed to). 

We usually start our postings in August, but due to delays in the publication, we will be starting with our January post, containing Level 1 and Level 2 Words related to the following themes: New Year’s Day, New Year’s Resolutions, Chinese New Year, Media including Cartoon Characters, Superheroes, Video Games, Virtual Reality, iPad, Apps Assistive Tech, and Augmented Reality, CGI (Computer Generated Imagery). 

How are these lessons different from the Original School Year of Core?

  • A copy of each bimonthly lesson can be downloaded by making your own copy of the Google Slide deck(s) so you can edit and modify them for your student/client needs. 
  • Our Google Slide Deck resources are not available in PDF.
  • Each bimonthly lesson, Weeks 1-2 and Weeks 3-4, contains both Level 1 and Level 2 words. (Please note that Weeks 1-2 and 3-4 correlate to the word order in the Symbol Charts). (link symbol charts here)
  • The SYOC OSLs are not organized in the same way as the original SYOC (e.g., Daily Routines, Play, Reading, etc), yet incorporate many of the same aspects within the structure (such as reading, music and animated shorts, short video clips and so on). 
  • Each of the bimonthly lessons contains icebreaker activities and two interactive National Day Slides. 
  • Each of the lessons is created around the monthly themes as indicated. 

How are these lessons the same as the Original School Year of Core? 

  • The same Level 1 and Level 2 word lists are utilized. 

As an overview of the words utilized, there are two separate word lists for the School Year of Core Word series. Levels 1 and 2 contain distinctly different sets of words.  Level 1 is a foundational compilation of 158 words, and Level 2 contains 161 words that build upon and beyond the foundation. The monthly word lists were selected to follow not only the school calendar but also support the needs of students, expanding communication functions in natural and more structured activities and settings (daily routines) as well as themes/holidays. We reviewed Browns’ 14 Morphemes and previous A Year of Core Vocabulary Words postings from the PrAACtically Speaking Website published in 2013 and 2014 while considering our selections. We also cross-referenced other core vocabulary lists and further made word choices by taking samples of our conversations and exchanges we had with others). 

  • The same Symbol Charts are utilized.
  • Each Week 1-2 and Week 3-4 lesson highlights (1) Strategy of the Month, with a short summary of the strategy at the top of the slide deck and more extensive information on the PrAACtical AAC website.

Here are some of the things you’ll find in each of the monthly School Year of Core-Older Student Lesson posts.  

  • Word Lists: List of Level 1 and Level 2 words and blank charts to add your own symbols
  • Symbol Charts showing the AAC symbols for each word using several of the most popular AAC symbol sets/systems. (This is not intended to be an exhaustive list of every symbol type). 
  • One AAC Strategy of the Month
  • Accountability Charts/Data collection forms for Level 1 and Level 2 words

Now, let’s look at the words that will be featured in these posts.

A School Year of Core Words-Level 1

A School-Year of Core Words-Level 1 is a compilation of 161 words and some pre-programmed phrases found on many Speech Generating Devices (SGDs)/AAC apps with semantic targets organized on a monthly basis within a school year. Some months have fewer words due to vacation(s).  Please note that this is not an exhaustive list (and some words/phrases may not be available on the communication system), but such items were selected based on a variety of underlying principles of language development and the use of communication functions, previous year of core vocabulary choices and posts, (in PrAACtical AAC), topics in school, holidays and themes.


  • August: I/me, hi/hello, bye/goodbye, help, stop, go, want, play, that, out, in, more, all done, bathroom, take a break, wash
  • September: you, eat, drink, yes, no, put, see, sit, like, on, off, finish, name, do, read, what
  • October: my/mine, turn, listen, don’t, up, down, feel, there, happy, sad, sick, tired, a, scared, mad, who
  • November: your, get, look, stand, sing, need, work, make, hurt, not, walk, cut, today, day, color, where
  • December: it, am, and, good, bad, love, give, take, watch, excited, open, close, the, please, thank you
  • January: he, she, is, sleep, come, all gone, can, big, little, this, tell, show, again, fun, you’re welcome, when
  • February: we, are, fast, slow, wait, hungry, thirsty, write, draw, cold, hot, great, tomorrow, sorry
  • March: they, live, place, ride, dress, ask, question, these, change, hear, front, back, loud, quiet, silly
  • April: our, call, let’s, here, nice, mean, have, for, away, hug, clean, dirty, because, yesterday, why
  • May: now, ready, to, with, push, pull, same, different, top, bottom, some, all
  • June: say, think, soon, later, together, understand, proud, favorite, how

You can download a document with the month-by-month PDF word list for Level 1 words here.

A School Year of Core Words-Level 2 (Intermediate)

A School-Year of Core Words-Level 2 is also a compilation of core words and some pre-programmed phrases found on many SGDs and AAC apps with semantic targets organized on a monthly basis within a school year. Please note that this is not an exhaustive list (and some words/phrases may not be available on the communication system), but such items were selected based on a variety of underlying principles of language development, previous year of core vocabulary choices, and posts (in PrAACtical AAC), themes and topics in school, holidays and overall student/adult benefit.


  • August: us, had, meet, went, funny, outside, inside, better, beside, next to, run, hear, hang, okay, awesome, How are you?
  • September: was, did, jump, talk, smile, cry, spell, angry, laugh, nervous, easy, hard, win, lose, those, What’s up?
  • October: them, someone, no one, fix, use, will, learn, clap, paint, messy, glue, party, dance, break, Wait a minute
  • November: thankful, fine, cool, taste, dry, wet, copy, pour, mix, stir, cook, bake, bored, smell, safe, How’s it going?
  • December: her, him, choose, shop, leave, wrap, drive, fly, ask, believe, wish, fold, carry, bring, decorate, buy
  • January: own, touch, hit, hold, wave, hurry, light, dark, strong, heavy, middle, between, know, at, surprise, I don’t know
  • February: hers, his, share, beautiful, special, imagine, dream, hope, few, less, first, then, Excuse me
  • March: early, late, agree, disagree, stay, leave, communicate, speak, hide, find, full, empty, pick, important, grouchy, grumpy
  • April: grow, climb, slide, skip, swim, score, race, kick, follow, around, fall, over, under, throw, bounce, step
  • May: few, many, below, above, through, really, comfortable, uncomfortable, terrible, wonderful
  • June: near, far, long, short, small, medium, large, excellent, rest, last, See you later

To download the document with the Level 2 words organized by month, click here. 

Symbol Charts

Level 1 Words

Level 2 Words

We would like to invite you to join our Core Community to share your ideas and even join our team to assist with edits as we post and share them with others.  Our Core Community is all about helping one another by providing monthly resources to help support you and your students/adult learners.  To join our Core Community, please contact one of us with your ideas and resources, and you will be recognized as a featured core contributor.

This posting is dedicated to all of you SLPs, parents, educators, and therapists who are making a difference every day! 

Together, we can!! We’re all in this together! 

We’d like to acknowledge and thank Carole Zangari for providing us with this opportunity and for her continued guidance and support. We would like to recognize CoughDrop and Avaz for helping us create their device-specific Symbol Charts. Lastly, we would like to thank and acknowledge the ingenious creativity of Jadine Veluya, Christelle Marcelo, and Joseph Cachapero (the original student interns, now SLPs), who helped brainstorm and ultimately create this plethora of resources.  

From: Michaela Sullivan and Lindsay Dougherty

You can check out January SYOC OSLs for Weeks 1-2 and Weeks 3-4  here.


Meet the School Year of Core Vocabulary Team!

The School Year of Core Vocabulary is authored by Michaela Sullivan and Lindsay Dougherty.  You can learn more about them here.

Headshot of Michaela SullivanMichaela Sullivan is an SLP who specializes in the fields of AAC and AT. She currently works within the San Francisco Unified School District on the AAC Support Team, where she supervises graduate student interns, works in a transition program, and works on special projects. Ms. Sullivan also has a private practice, Hands-On AAC. She has been a presenter in the field of Speech-Language Pathology and AAC at state and national conventions. She was one of the creators of the Original School Year of Core, first released in 2020 on the websites PrAACtical AAC and AAC Language Lab.  Ms. Sullivan works closely with San Francisco State with Project AAC for ALLSYOC Bilingue, and the TRAAC Project. Ms. Sullivan serves as a Board member, Treasurer, and Volunteer for the Nika Project, providing services, support, resources, training, and repurposed equipment to help meet the needs of individuals who use AAC systems both locally and internationally. 

Headshot of Lindsay DoghertyLindsay Dougherty is a Speech and Language Pathologist with specializations in Autism and AAC.  She currently works for the San Francisco Unified School District, providing direct services to students with complex communication needs and supporting her fellow SLPs on the AAC Support Team.  Lindsay works on a team of professionals, implementing a Language Systems First curriculum for Pre-K and Kindergarten classrooms across the school district. The team provides a universal language system, staff and parent training, and AAC support to teachers and SLPs.  She is also the faculty advisor of her middle school’s Best Buddies Club, where she supports students with disabilities in building meaningful friendships with peers.


Our featured Core Contributors for the Month of January include Jadine Veluya, Christelle Marcelo, Joseph Cachapero, and Yan Zheng.

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This post was written by Carole Zangari

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