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Core words

What are core words?

Well, we want to give you a definition that is easy to understand.


Core words are part of the list of the words we use the most in our daily life (80% of what we communicate). So the words we use every day are called core words. Core words are represented by verbs, prepositions, conjunctions, articles, adjectives, pronouns. Nouns are rare. 



Core vocabulary is a small set of simple words, that are used frequently and across contexts.



AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) devices have these core words which give the chance to a non-verbal user to communicate.

Having core word vocabularies is necessary

Core word vocabularies represent the base of what you are going to build. These types of vocabularies are easy to find in the AAC apps, such as in the Fluent AAC app. We have estimated that a core word vocabulary includes the majority of words a user needs to be able to communicate, express feelings, and be understood by those around him. 


Provide access to core vocabulary

Before we start teaching core vocabulary, we have to give our patients

AAC devices that have a variety of core vocabulary. That can be done if you set up the AAC devices for core language. The goal of utilizing core vocabulary is to give our non-verbal AAC users the ability to express themselves independently.



If we are giving access to the core words to AAC users, we offer them a great device that enables them to say everything they want. They have the chance to choose from a nearly small set of words to create their sentences. This way, they can express many ideas and thoughts.


What words should you begin with?

Remember that when you teach core words you have to pay more attention to what the user needs. 


Managing which words, to begin with, can be challenging. If you search on Google for core vocabulary lists, you’ll find lots of articles and other already finished word lists. Honestly, this is kind of overwhelming. You’ll notice that there is typically a lot of overlap in words from a list to another list. You may notice a high percentage of the same words on many lists. 


Here is our list of the words that we have selected to begin with when implementing core vocabulary guidance:


"I"                        "eat"                     "go"                  "more" 

"You"                   "drink"                  "like"

"help"                  "done"                  "stop"

"want"                 "no"                      "that"

"need"                 "yes"                    "it"



Tips for beginning with Core word vocabulary

• The goal is not for the child to master the use of full sentences in the beginning but to form simple grammatical structures like "want water"


• Communication is more than just words. Body language is crucial and expresses so much so you need to accept that as a form of communication.

For example, the patient can communicate with you by pointing to the bathroom. You can then model the "bathroom" word on the AAC device so the AAC user will make a connection between its needs (expressed through body language) and the device.


• You can’t just show an AAC user a set of words and expect the user to learn them. You need to MODEL and show the patient what those words mean and what happens when they use them. Encourage them!


Why teaching core words is seen as a difficult challenge?

At first, many people struggle with teaching core words. We've detected that core words are less picturable. For example, conjunctions, adjectives, and prepositions are harder to be described in images, and also, some of these core words can have multiple meanings. Another difficulty is when you present to the user a core word board. The core word board may make patients feel overwhelmed because of the variety of words on a single page.

How to teach core words?

To model, you have to be the one who uses the AAC app the most. Every time you say any word on the app, point to the word. You can talk in full sentences but you have to give meaning to the words and images and refer to them

while you speak.


Example: How to teach the word "DO"?


The word “do” is one of the most versatile and common core words in our vocabulary and can be applied in almost any activity. 

The word "do" can be used to manage other people’s behavior, ask questions, describe actions. 

The word “do” is an easy word an AAC user can use in the position of other verbs he/she hasn’t learned. When it is another user’s turn to perform a gross motor or fine motor task, let your student say “do it” or “you do it.”


Many patients enjoy having others imitate their behavior. You can model for them “I do it,” and “you do it” during social activities like making faces, pretending to sleep, or be sick. 

Let your patient use the word “do” to ask for help. When clothing, or opening food containers, your child can direct you to “do” it. You can also teach "don't" at the same time. 


Knowing the words and making changes in a patient's communication style are two different things. An AAC user learning new vocabulary may need anywhere from 50 - 350 repetitions before mastering the word. It takes a lot to get to 350 repetitions. If it’s just you and you alone, then it will take longer to get to mastery. Get your team (family members, speech-language pathologists) in for this one!

Activity ideas which may help you teach core words

➊ Words of the week

- highlight or sticky note the ‘target words’. 

-use a word wall and let learners add pictures, objects, text that define, categorize, or relate to the target words.

-the word wall can become an important part of vocabulary instruction and learners are familiar with it, add some visual labels for where different items would be placed.

-create Word of the Week books. These can be physical books, folders with pockets, talking PowerPoint books, talking photo albums.

-you can also create Word of the Week boxes. Patients can put items in a box, close the box, decorate the box, move the box. 


 ➋ Treasure Hunts

The game consists of searching for items that compare to the core vocabulary. Also, you can hide written words and go searching for them. To make it fun for learners, you can dress up as treasure hunters, give clues, or have a treasure map.



 ➌ Word PARTY


At the end of every week/month, you can organize a party with the purpose of learning and revising the core words. In order for the child to assimilate information, you have to make the activity of learning really fun.

Arrange a special party room and decorate it with confetti, balloons, bring food and juice. Make everything possible for the patient to feel comfortable and motivated. 

If you have any questions, you can always ask us using the contact form in the app.

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