Did you know that around 50-100 verbs, adjectives, and pronouns, known as core words, make up over 80% of our spoken language? This blog post provides tips and tricks to begin focusing on core words in instruction. Read on to learn more!
Why Core Words?
According to assistiveware.com, core words are verbs, adjectives, and pronouns that make up over 80% of our spoken language. It is important that we give emergent communicators and/or AAC users quick and easy access to these core words so that they can communicate whatever they want to say.
That being said, instruction of core words are often overlooked. This is because they are more challenging to teach. As mentioned, core words are typically verbs, adjectives, and pronouns. Unlike nouns, these words are hard to depict. As such, we should always model the use of core words and give students plenty of opportunities to practice.
Tips and Tricks
Identify a list of core words for each instructional theme. I typically shoot for up to 5 core words a month. Based on the chosen theme and core words, I then create differentiated activities for my students. All class activities for my target students will surround and build upon identified core words.
As previously mentioned, we want to make sure students have plenty of input as well as opportunities to practice the use of core words. As such, we need to make sure students have access to these words through their AAC system (e.g. PECS, speech-generating devices). If my students do not have specific core words in their AAC system, I will create low-tech version for my students. In in-person learning, this could be printed communication boards for students; in remote learning, this could look like target language being available on instructional materials.
As explained, core words may be more challenging to teach due to their abstract nature. To use core words during instruction, we have to provide students with plenty of input. The best practice is to provide input using your students’ mode of communication. In other words, for verbal students, you model verbally; for students using speech-generating devices, you would model using their device or a replica of their device. Another tip for modeling is to exaggerate to gain attention.
In addition to providing input, we also should provide students with plenty of opportunities to use core words during instruction. Two activities I use to practice with my students are (1) explicit drills and (2) application using games or stories. These activities will allow you to really gauge students’ understanding and usage of core words.
#4: Challenge and Reinforce
When working with emergent communicators and/or AAC users, it is most important to assume competency. This means that we are using age- and developmentally- appropriate stimuli and topics. Likewise, we keep students engaged by continuously challenging them at a level just slightly above their current level. It is important to let students know that we are challenging them because we know they are capable of greatness.
Last but not least, do not be afraid to reinforce students for successfully using core words! Students love to feel celebrated. Consistent encouragement and reinforcement will help them continue to feel motivated.
Do you focus on core words in your instruction? I hope these tips are tricks are helpful for your emergent communicators and/or AAC users. Leave a comment with your questions or thoughts below!