Core Vocabulary for Reading Groups

Core vocabulary in reading groups can be challenging. We know that core vocabulary is a key component in instruction for students with AAC devices.  Most times, this is isolated to the speech and language therapy room, but read on to find how to incorporate it into reading groups!

DISCLAIMER: This is in addition to, not in replacement of phonics instruction.  Phonics is essential  for reading.  Students who use AAC do not have the ability to sound out words on their own, but it is their right to have access to the general education curriculum and be exposed to this instruction.  

Preparing for the Week

Step One: Choose word of the week

Decide on a core word of the week. plan this ahead of time with my speech and language therapist so both can prepare materials and get everything organized before.  At the beginning of the week, also fill the teaching assistants what the core word is.  It is helpful to provide examples of how to model using the word in various settings.

Step Two: Prepare materials

Having different types of materials to have students practice their core word in different modalities keeps things fresh and exciting, allows the word to be modeled in different ways, and just immerses them in the language.

Some examples of materials to prepare:

adapted books

writing worksheets

boom cards


printable books

Step Three: Plan the week

Plan out the week to be sure prompt fading is happening and students are being exposed in many different ways. These materials will be used with the teaching assistants as well as the teacher. Here is an example of what a week may look like.

*core words are used as part of the reading group. This is done four days a week to allow time for other skills to be worked on as well.

Planning for the Week


Read adapted book (version 1) and teacher models how to find the word on the AAC device.  This day includes a lot of modeling on the teacher’s part because we are teaching where to locate the symbol on the student’s device.  

After, move into the writing component.  There are four different levels of writing that to choose between for the different levels of your students.  This helps to incorporate practicing the core word and fine motor control.  The students practice cutting or writing with the core word and then have to color or illustrate a picture of the sentence they wrote.


The same adapted book will be used as yesterday.  Today, begin to fade the prompts.  This means, instead of using hand over hand prompt, use a gesture prompt to have the student say the core word.  This may look like the teacher pointing to their device only.

After, take an easy reader and read the book together. Be sure to prepare images of the core words to be glued into the book.  While reading, the student or teacher (depending on their level) will also use their device to communicate the words.  Students may be at the one word level, so they will only say the core word, or they may be stringing several words together.


Today read over the easy printable. (Notice the repetition thing happening?) Be sure to reuse materials so the students become independent with demonstrating their core word.  Once students read over the book, it is sent home for parents to work on to help students generalize their learning.

Then, work on several worksheets using the core words.  Two of my favorite are the sorting of the words.  This creates many opportunities for the students to practice identifying the core word, and also brings in other older core words we have worked on previously.

The other worksheets I love to use are the tactile ones.  There are two versions.  One is for using bingo dabbers and the other for play-doh.  Anytime I can get in fine motor practice, I am sure to jump on it!


This is a day we be sure the student has solidified it.  Be sure to collect data on this day according to the student’s goals.  The Boom Card version of the adapted books are a great tool today so the students again see the material, but in a different way.  

*Be sure that the student’s device is not the device being used for the boom cards.  The student’s device should only be used for their communication, otherwise things get confusing!

Students also work on another page from the writing notebook and celebrate their hard work!

I hope this helps you plan out teaching core vocabulary in your reading groups. It can be a lot, but I know you got this! If you have any questions, please reach out!

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