©2019 by Talk To Me With AAC. Proudly created with

5 Steps for Getting Started with a Core Words of the Week Approach

Our first week of Core Word(s) of the Week went very well! Prior to starting, I met with my teachers to discuss how we would select words of the week. They shared their thematic plans for the academic year (they are *so* organized, it’s amazing!) and together we brainstormed how we could choose words that would fit the themes. The great news is that any core can really fit any theme because they’re THAT flexible! But, we wanted to choose words that would go as well as possible so that our students with complex communication needs would really get the rich language exposure that they need.

This is part 1 of a 3 part series on our Core Word(s) of the Week approach- to discuss planning and preparing for this system.

Part 2 will discuss specific activities and lessons that we used to teach core words. Part 3 will discuss reflections, exciting outcomes, challenges, and future plans!

How We Planned Our Core Word(s) of the Week Approach:


After we discussed themes, we looked at our classroom core vocabulary boards in addition to Gail Van Tatenhove’s core vocabulary list of the top 50 words. This is how we chose our yearly target words. We recognize that this list is fluid and can and likely will change depending on our students’ needs.

We compiled our list using google sheets. We have a column for dates, classroom theme, songs, books, activities, and other miscellaneous information.

Top Core Words List:

We intentionally left out some words that may seem important. This is not because we are not going to teach these words, but rather because these words will be taught EVERY WEEK because they are SO essential. Some of these words include: yes, no, and help.

Additionally, we left out words that our students use independently, as we will just monitor and encourage the use of these words. These include: more, finished, and want.


Using the AAC Training Guide by SpeechyMusings, I sat down with my teachers and completed the “Communication Opportunities” handout. We chose times of the day, classes, and activities during which we could ensure our words of the week were taught. We acknowledged that we would be teaching these words constantly throughout the week, but sitting down and filling out this form really helped us with accountability.


On Monday morning, I sat down with the classroom support staff which consists of a teaching assistant and two 1:1 aides. I provided all classroom staff with core board lanyards. We sat for about 15 minutes and discussed core vocabulary and our plans for teaching it.

I talked to the team about aided language input (modeling). I demonstrated how it would work and why it was necessary for our students!

Having this initial conversation with the team was really productive! I feel that it was a great way to make sure everyone understood the approach.


I created a google slides presentation to introduce the words of the week. On Monday afternoon, we went through the presentation as a class. The presentation consists of the following: introduction to the words, songs that incorporate the words, and a game or activity.

When we introduced the words of the week (this week: DO/NOT), the students were invited to come to the smart board and draw the symbols. They had opportunities to use switches to produce the words. The words were produced on high-tech AAC systems as well as with on low-tech devices and core boards. Additionally, I brought a toy microphone for students to try to verbally say the words! Everyone had a chance to say the words many, many times during this introductory activity!

The students absolutely LOVED hitting the switches. Even my verbal students were

excited to push the buttons. They also loved the music. Having an introductory activity was a great way to begin the week because it helped students understand our plans and also provided staff the opportunity to practice modeling.


Throughout the week, I checked in with the teachers and staff to make sure everything was going smoothly. I made sure to remind staff members to always have their lanyards. I went out of my way to praise and thank the classroom support staff (who are *awesome*) for all of their hard work and dedication. Without them, this approach would be a lot more difficult to implement!!

My individual and group speech therapy activities were also planned around this weekly core vocabulary. I was able to individualize it to meet each student’s individual needs as well as their interests. It is so important to me to let my students lead whenever possible. I used the switches, pictures, devices, and microphone in every session to expose my students to multimodal communication.

My wonderful teachers planned their circle time, snack time, and other routine activities to include the words of the week. They did a phenomenal job of thinking of different ways they could incorporate these words.

We planned engineered situations that would allow us to model the words of the week. I modeled for staff in different environments, such as at the gym, in the hallway, lunchroom and when in transition from one room to another.


We are going to continue to use these plans as a template for teaching our words of the week! We have seen huge buy-in from students and their teams. Most of the students are super excited about their new words and we can’t wait to see how the rest of the year goes!

In the next post, I will share some of the ways that we started to implement our plans. For more information or to request a copy of my materials, please subscribe or send me an email at !