What are core words?

Core words, also known as core vocabulary, are the words that make up most of what we use to communicate. These approximately 200 words are about 60-80% of the words we use every day. Core words can be used in many different contexts, which is why they’re important to understand! They can include verbs, pronouns, prepositions, and more. The rest of the language we use is made up of fringe words.

How to Teach Core Words

Individuals who use augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) often benefit from intervention that specifically targets the use of core words.

The “Core word of the week” approach is a common way to target core words in speech therapy sessions, in the classroom, and other instructional environments Using this approach, one core word is targeted multiple times over the course of the week to increase exposure to it and highlight how it can be used in different contexts.

Core Word of the Week: GO

For our first week, we chose the word GO. There are MANY ways to teach and use the word GO in context. Below, we’ve included several different activities that can be used to target this core word. You may choose to use all of these activities in speech therapy sessions or just a couple. These activities can also be shared with other educators and caregivers so they can participate in them outside of speech therapy sessions.

Activity #1: Introduction to Core Word GO

  • Produce and show a symbol of the word GO. If the individual you are working with is using an AAC system, use the symbol that they have on their AAC system.
  • Produce and model the gesture/sign for GO.
  • Show GO in a field of 2-4 other buttons/symbols and have the individual select it. You may use a visual aid and have them label it, then move on to discrimination. If they are able, you may use a larger field size (e.g. 15-20 other buttons/symbols).
  • Provide a printout of a communication page with GO appearing several times. Have the individual search for it and circle or put a sticker over all of the GO buttons.

Activity #2: Core Word GO in Short phrases

  • Demonstrate how GO can be used in many short phrases.
  • Provide symbols as visual aids as you model the short phrases. You may hold them up and show pictures for guidance.
  • Encourage individuals to use their AAC systems or gestures to select GO as they participate in these activities.
  • If able, actively go to different locations and model the word/phrase within appropriate context(s).


  • GO (to) playground, GO home, GO (to) gym, GO play, GO (to) sleep

More complex examples (may not be most appropriate for all):

  • GO away, GO around
Visual aid created by Smarty Symbols (for example purposes only)

Activity #3: Core Word GO in Songs

  • There are many songs/videos that use GO in different contexts. Play these songs and videos and emphasize when you hear GO. You may also sing the songs yourself.
  • Hold up visuals and encourage individuals to select GO or gesture for GO when they hear them in the songs.
  • Bonus: choose other preferred songs and pause them randomly, then encourage individuals to communicate GO to continue playing the song.


Activity #4: Core Word GO in Books

  • There are many books that use the same sentence structure and words throughout, which is a great way to target core words.
  • Read the books and emphasize when you hear GO. Encourage individuals to select or gesture GO when they hear it as well.
  • You can add visuals to books to highlight GO throughout. We had a great conversation with Rebecca Eisenberg about it - check it out!
  • Bonus: choose preferred books and have the individual communicate GO to turn the page.


Activity #5: Core Word GO in Toys

  • Cause and effect toys and activities are great ways to teach the word GO.
  • Model the use of GO before blowing bubbles, sending a car down a ramp, pressing a button to open a popup, and more.
  • You can also use GO as part of a turn-taking game. Say GO before each person’s turn.
  • GO can be used for group activities like musical chairs and freeze dance as well. Say GO before playing music.


Activity #6: Core Word GO Carryover activities

Model the use of GO as you leave your home, go to different areas in your home, go to sleep, go to eat, and more. For AAC users, modeling GO via aided language stimulation is a great way to demonstrate the wide use of this word!


  • Go to school
  • Go in car
  • Go for a walk
  • Go to the bus stop
  • Go play
  • Go eat
  • Go to bathroom
  • Go to bath
  • Go away
  • Go upstairs
  • Go around
  • Let’s go
  • Go for it
  • There you go.

Want to download this? Access it (for FREE) below or on our Teachers Pay Teachers page!

Check out our other core word of the week activities for MORE.

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