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 or fringe vocabulary.
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 in 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: MORE
This week, we chose the word MORE. More is a commonly-used word for individuals young and old. It can be used to request a variety of things, including more food/drink, more of an activity, and more of another type of object. Individuals may also protest things by saying “no more.” There are a number of ways to teach and use the word MORE in context. Find several different activities below that can be used to target the core word MORE.
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.
AAC Modeling Without Expectation
When engaging in these activities, and encouraging others to engage in carryover activities, remember that not all individuals will participate 100% of the time. Communicating should be encouraged, not forced. Additionally, all forms of communication should be honored. This includes verbalizations, the use of high tech AAC, gestures, etc. Multimodal communication is important and used by many!
Activity #1: Core Word MORE Introduction
- Produce and show a symbol of the word MORE (this can also be modeled using a sign/gesture). If the individual you are working with is using an AAC system (e.g., speech generating device/tablet), use the symbol that they have on their AAC system for visual consistency.
- Show MORE in a field of 2-4 other familiar buttons/symbols and ask the individual to select it from the field. You may use a visual aid (e.g. picture of the symbol) and encourage them to 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 MORE appearing several times. Ask the individual to search for it by circling or putting a sticker over all of the MORE buttons.
Activity #2: Core Word MORE in Short Phrases
- Demonstrate how MORE can be used in many short phrases (see below).
- 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 MORE as they participate in these activities.
- If able, provide different items that someone may request MORE of, and model the word/phrase within appropriate context(s).
Core Word MORE Phrase Examples:
- MORE song
- MORE toy
- MORE blocks
- MORE water
- MORE crackers
- MORE slide
- MORE playing
- No MORE
More complex examples (may not be most appropriate for all):
- I need MORE ___
- Put MORE water in
Below are some videos that explore how MORE is used in different contexts.
Activity #3: Core Word MORE in Songs
- There are many songs/videos that use MORE in different contexts (see below). Play these songs and videos and emphasize when you hear MORE (e.g., modeling on the AAC user’s device or using the sign). You may also sing the songs yourself.
- Hold up visuals and encourage individuals to select MORE or sign for MORE when they hear them in the songs.
- Bonus: Choose other preferred songs and pause them randomly, then encourage individuals to communicate MORE to request that the song continue playing or No MORE to protest.
Core Word MORE Song Examples:
- Speech and Language Songs - More | Core Vocabulary
- The More We Get Together
- Five Little Monkeys (No More Monkeys Jumping on the Bed)
- Halsey “More”
- Britney Spears “Gimme More” (clean version)
- Lynyrd Skynyrd “One More Time”
- Queen “More of that Jazz”
Activity #4: Core Word MORE in Books
- There are many books that use the same sentence structure and words throughout (see below), which is a great way to target core words through consistency and practice.
- Read the books and emphasize when you hear MORE by increasing your volume or changing your tone. Encourage individuals to select or sign MORE when they hear it as well.
- You can add visuals to books to highlight MORE throughout. We had a great conversation with Rebecca Eisenberg about adapting books for AAC users - check it out!
- Bonus: while reading a preferred book, use an extended pause to encourage the individual to communicate MORE to continue reading.
- Note: Many of the examples below have the stories available on YouTube if you are unable to access a physical version or are working in a virtual setting.
Core Word MORE Book Examples:
Just One More by Jennifer Hansen Rolli
Bear Wants More by Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman
Monster Needs One More by Natalie Marshall
Activity #5: Core Word MORE in Toys
- Cause and effect toys and activities are great ways to teach the word MORE.
- Model the use of MORE while you start, then stop an activity. For example, you can have a play farm animal “running” around, stop, say MORE, then have it continue running.
- If you’re playing in a sensory area, you can put a few toys in, then pause and add MORE. You may also search for an object, say MORE, and continue searching.
- While watching a video or listening to a song, pause it, say MORE, then press play.
Core Word MORE Toys Examples:
Activity #6: Core Word MORE Carryover Activity
Model the use of MORE as you play with MORE toys, go to the store to get MORE food, add MORE salt to your dinner, and cut MORE apples. Also, model protesting as you say “no MORE” jumping or “no MORE” food if you’re done eating.
Modeling MORE via aided language stimulation is a great way to demonstrate this word!
Core Word MORE Modeling Examples:
- "MORE bubbles"
- "MORE dolls"
- "MORE [snack]"
- "Add MORE sugar [to recipe]"
- "No MORE [activity]"
- "MORE [preferred activity]"
- "MORE work to do"
- "You have MORE than me"
- "I want MORE"