| | | | |

Core Words in Speech Therapy

Using core words in speech therapy can be a very important component when helping our speech and language students become more efficient communicators.

The problem? Most SLPs have huge caseloads- and even larger paperwork piles.

That means we can’t be the only ones involved when it comes to modeling and teaching core words to our speech and language students. (By the way, here is the Get Started Guide for SLPs on using core vocabulary in speech therapy).

Carryover of teaching core words at home is SO essential- but it can often be tricky to find ways to explain to parents how to best incorporate language modeling and core word use into everyday activities.

That’s where these Core Words Handouts come in!

Why Core Words?

According to Soto and Zagari, “Core vocabulary refers to high-frequency, multipurpose, commonly occurring words from a range of word classes that are a central part of an individual’s AAC system” (REFERENCE: Soto, Gloria, and Carole Zangari. “Supporting More Advanced Linguistic Communicators in the Classroom.” Practically Speaking: Language, Literacy, and Academic Development for Students with AAC Needs, Paul H. Brookes, Baltimore, MD, 2009, p. 176.)

For a wonderful grab’n go list of the most frequently used core words, check out this core word list from AAC Language Lab.

Fringe words that are specific to the individual are important as well, but for this post, I’m going to focus on teaching core words- and how parents can do this at home.

Modeling Core Words at Home

As SLPs, we know that language modeling can occur around ANY and EVERY activity. That’s the wonderful thing about it. AAC should be simple- and helpful!

Now, we typically get to work with our speech and language students in school or outpatient settings. I blogged for ASHA with suggestions for tips that teachers can use to help incorporate AAC into the classroom.

Today, I’ll share some easy activities and ideas that parents can use to help incorporate AAC- and core vocabulary words- at home.

core words for speech and language therapy

Modeling Core Words While Getting Ready

Modeling core vocabulary words can start as soon as the day begins!

Parents can use a language modeling strategy called “self talk”. This means they can talk about WHAT they are doing as they do it. They can highlight the targeted core word by pointing to their child’s communication board or device as they talk.

Here are some examples:

  • “Good morning! Let’s turn ON the light!” (point to the word ON)
  • “Sound machine OFF!”
  • “Squeeze the toothpaste. Toothpaste OUT!”
  • “Let’s put your shirt ON!”
  • “Mommy is putting your lunch IN your backpack.”

Modeling Core Words on the Way to School

Mornings can be crazy, I know. I have two young children, so I know this first-hand!

Still, thinking ahead just a little bit on some of the activities and core words that can be paired with them can make modeling core vocabulary a lot easier.

  • “LOOK! I see the bus.”
  • “STOP! I see the bus STOP.”
  • “You’re getting ON the bus!”
  • “GO car, GO!”
  • “OPEN the door!”
  • “CLOSE the door!”
  • “BYE-BYE house!” (or “good-bye”)

Modeling Core Words At Dinner or Snack

After school, there are several carryover opportunities that parents can use to model core words!

Here are a few examples of core vocabulary words that can be used during mealtime:

  • “Yummy! LOOK! Spaghetti!”
  • “I want THAT.”
  • “Mmmm. WANT that?”
  • “I LIKE this.”
  • “The roll is ON the plate.”

AAC Modeling During Playtime

Playtime is learning time! I’m a huge believer in play. Whenever parents ask me what flashcards they can buy to help encourage language development, I tell them- none! The best things we can do as parents include encouraging playtime, limiting screen time, reading books, and throwing in some language modeling throughout the door!

Parents can model core words during play. Here are some ideas:

  • “GO car, GO!”
  • “STOP! Crash! Boom!”
  • “UP! Let’s throw the ball UP, UP, UP!”
  • “VROOM! This car is FAST!”
  • “Mmm, baby doll is thirsty. She NEEDs a baba.”
  • “I LIKE that!”
  • “Let’s PLAY!”

Modeling Words at Bedtime

At the end of the day, the language modeling doesn’t need to wind down!

Parents can model these vocabulary words during the bedtime routine as well.

  • “Let’s TURN the page in our story.”
  • “Put ON jammies.”
  • “We need MORE toothpaste.”
  • Let’s get UNDER the covers!”
  • “CLOSE your eyes!”
modeling core vocabulary handouts for parents

Encouraging AAC Carryover

SLPs know the importance of carryover at home.

We simply don’t get enough time during our busy days to model language as often as our speech therapy students need to hear it.

That’s why it’s so critical that this becomes a team approach. Parents, teachers, and SLPs need to work together to make sure that language modeling is happening all day long.

It goes without saying- the more times a child hears different vocabulary words, through a variety of experiences, the better!

Parent Handouts for Carryover

As we’ve discussed in this blog post, parents are an absolutely critical component of their child’s success. We need to work as a team.

That’s why I decided to create parent handouts that explain simple, effective ways that core words could be modeled throughout the day.

These handouts explain to parents how to work on their student’s communication skills while at home.

It allows SLPs to:

  • cut down on prep time
  • make AAC “less scary”
  • provide easy ideas for parents to use at home
  • access to a variety of language modeling that can be used all year

You can mark the level the child is communicating at (i.e. single word level, simple phrases, or simple sentences).
This packet is perfect for the preverbal or minimally verbal children on your speech therapy caseload.

It can be used for children who communicate using a variety of communication methods (examples include: signing, pictures, communication boards, communication devices).


The core words targeted on these handouts include:

  • want, all done, more, stop, go
  • help, mine, in, out, turn
  • up, down, on, off, play
  • like, make, get, put, it
  • open, close, look, little, big

There are handouts provided for all four seasons, including:

  • fall
  • winter
  • spring
  • summer

In addition, two daily language modeling handouts are provided.

core vocabulary: core words for SLPs

Make language modeling for parents of your emergent communicators and AAC users much easier with these parent carryover handouts!

Similar Posts