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Blog: Thursday, January 13th, 2022

Building Equitable & Inclusive Classrooms with Core Words

Equitable and inclusive classrooms are cultivated by collaboration. This is especially true when supporting non-speaking students who use alternative and augmentative communication (AAC). Pairing the language development expertise of Speech-Language Pathologists with the education expertise of Teachers can build opportunities for every student. The results, as shared by Clearbrook Elementary EA Ana Larson, are changes in staff mindset, student engagement and curiosity.

A strategy for AAC students that easily fits into Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is classroom core words. Approximately 80% of the words we say every day are composed of about 200-300 words! These core words are a key part of AAC systems. It is the first page on communication apps. Providing access and teaching of core words supports non-speaking student’s communication as well as language and literacy for many students, for example English Language Learners.

The AAC Collaboration Program was created by the Speech Language Pathology Department to support implementing core words into classrooms. This collaborative approach was piloted at Clearbrook Elementary and put core words into practice across several classrooms. Classroom teachers, LSS, EAs, SLPs and Helping Teachers came together to support this inclusive strategy. Clearbrook Elementary teacher Tara Salter shared, “I have introduced the 'word of the day' in the morning. We identify the letters in the word, cheerlead spell it, locate the word on the Core Board and practice using it in sentences.” Students in the class are excited to learn the word of the day and staff have been surprised by how much the non-AAC students are engaged in the learning. Just as expected, the use of core words was good for every student. Tara noted the importance of intentional teaching of these words to her many English Language Learners.

UDL planning that includes core words is helping to build stronger, more inclusive classrooms where every student finds belonging. It is worth it to work together!

Speech Language Pathologists, Learning Support Services Department