Recently we challenged our readers to start using AAC more in the classroom to ensure that every student has choice and voice. Hopefully you had an opportunity to download the freebie associated with that challenge. If not click here to read the article and get a free AAC tool to incorporate into your classroom.
Did you rock out that challenge?
Are you looking for more ways to build vocabulary with students who use AAC devices?
We’ve got some great ideas for you!

Are you looking for more ways to build vocabulary with students who use AAC devices? We've got some great ideas for you!

Using AAC More in the Classroom

In the last challenge we focused in on low-tech assistive technology, specifically a core vocabulary board, as a way to increase communication for students who are nonverbal or minimally verbal. There were some people who chimed in on the post and we’re looking for ways they could start using AAC more in the classroom for students with digital devices. With that in mind we’ve got 6 things your student’s AAC device should have preprogrammed and 7 ways you can get your students to start using AAC more in the classroom.

Are you looking for more ways to build vocabulary with students who use AAC devices? We've got some great ideas for you!

Socialization is KEY!

First a little back story. Many moons ago I sat through a professional development session where the lecturer challenged the attendees to build on students ability to use their devices by setting some smaller targets for the student, doing more direct instruction, and also trying to get each student to communicate with their device at a minimum 200 times per day.

Two Hundred Times!!

Yeah, that’s what I thought too. Even on my best day I wasn’t sure I could get to every student in my classroom who was nonverbal or minimally verbal with a device a minimum of 200 times. I like the idea though… that I should have a rough benchmark in my head I was trying to reach every day in terms of how many times I was going to have my students interact through their device. Let’s face it… we have a lot of AT and AAC devices in our classrooms that go unused or are underused. And it’s not the students who are to blame- it’s us!

I wanted to be more proactive and I also wanted to challenge myself to go beyond just comprehension questions and yes no responses when I was teaching my students. I had to think about what kind of communication my students would do if they weren’t in my setting. If they were mainstreamed or general education, they would be conversing a lot with peers. What would that look like?

6 Things You Should Have in Your Student’s AAC Device

So here a a few things to consider when programming or deciding the order of core vocabulary instruction. Teachers like on sentence building, lesson vocabulary, or just wants and needs.

Regular students don’t focus on just those words… why should our students?

So what kind of vocabulary do we need? One that make us more social and able also able to converse about the lessons being taught and the things we are learning. So… where should you start?

  1. Rejecting Something. One of my little one’s first words was no. And he said no to everything for awhile. Even when I was holding and offering his favorite snack, he would tell me no. But it’s an important lesson to remember. Being able to reject or stop something is one of the first steps in language development. If you’re looking for a great word to start when teach a student, try the word no.
  2. Asking Questions. Ever been around a two year old? All they do is ask why and when and why not. Questions, questions, questions… but that is because questions are part of learning. If you want to know if a student is learning things, hearing them ask questions is a great way to check for learning and understanding… so teach words like Why, How, When, and Who. Even with single word use, they still tell us what a student is wondering about.
  3. Getting Attention. No joke, my daughter’s favorite word for about a year was “Um-ere”. She said it all the time. It was her version of Come Here. She wanted us to come and get things for her or do thing with her. She said it all the time. But we all do. A lot of our language is based on getting people’s attention to engage them. We want our student so be social, so shouldn’t we teach them an appropriate way to get someone’s attention?
  4. Are you looking for more ways to build vocabulary with students who use AAC devices? We've got 6 great ideas for you!Putting in Our Two Cents. When you interact with people you do a lot to keep them talking. You smile at them, you nod your head, and you affirm what they’re saying. Some of those one-liners are the perfect saying to add to a student’s VOD. Allowing a student to say things like: Awesome! No way! Seriously? No kidding? Or That’s so cool, make them more fun for others to be around. End of conversational buttons makes the act of socializing more fun and, quite honestly, more realistic.
  5. Answering Questions. Verbal people ask and answer a lot of questions in a single day. If you take the 200 challenge seriously, you’re going to need to ask your students a lot of questions throughout the school day. The thing is, when you do that, is that you have to make sure they have a way to answer the questions you’re asking. Make sure your student is easily able to access answers like yes and no… but don’t be afraid to add and answers like I don’t know or I’m not sure. Not everything is as easy as yes and no so offer a student options. you may also decide to add in buttons that will say “Can you repeat the question?” or “Can you help me find the answer?” since responses like that will continue the interaction and also help the student learn to advocate for themselves.
  6. Etiquette Phrases. Everything we need at uh now we learned in kindergarten, right? Well one thing every kindergarten teacher focuses on is basic social etiquette. Every student should be able to say ‘please’, ‘thank you’, and ‘no thank you’. When you’re focusing on social language you may also want to add and things like ‘bless you’ and ‘excuse me’. Those social phrases help students interact more and with better reception.

So What Do I Do?
6 Ways to Up the Engagement with VODs

Most students go to school about 400 minutes a day. If you want to get 200 points of VOD engagement, you should be prompting students all throughout the day. That seems overwhelming… so start smaller. If you work in blocks or class periods, start with just prompting a VOD exchange once or twice per class period. When that starts to feel routine, up your benchmark. Some easy places to incorporate the interactions:

  1. Greeting the student. This can happen once per period/hour or more.
  2. Ask how the student is doing.
  3. Ask what the class/lesson is about to do.
  4. Show the student something and prompt for comment.
  5. Have them tell you where they are going (even if an aide is taking the student to the bathroom or to the nurse, ask first before they can leave).
  6. Before the end of class or before the transition, ask what’s next or where the student goes next.
  7. Ask what’s for breakfast or lunch. Follow up by asking them to tell you about it or tell you if they liked it.

If you do these things once per period, you will get to 50 quick. From there, you’ll start to build a habit that will go a long way. The first step is to start small and keep at it.

Teach On Superstar!

Are you looking for more ways to build vocabulary with students who use AAC devices? We've got some great ideas for you!
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