Core Vocabulary: A Q&A with Meredith Harrah

Meredith Harrah

Speech-Language Pathologist

Mentor Public Schools

How many core words do you present on a page when first introducing this concept?

I typically do not mask words, and oftentimes I model on a full core board.

How often do you go into the classroom per week?

I go into the classroom for group 1x weekly (typically on Mondays). In one of my classrooms, I go in a second time for a 12-minute “AAC” center, where the Intervention Specialist is running the group, and I am there to facilitate the language.

Has this been used successfully with preschoolers?

Yes! I currently work in K–5 self-contained classrooms.

How can I support the teacher and class in using a coreboard to increase this student’s communication opportunities”©?

I use coreboards for the language system my students are using. So we model in their language using a coreboard.

”©How do you incorporate multiple AAC devices when teaching core vocabulary visuals in a self-contained classroom?

I have students using several different devices in our self-contained units, many with different symbols. When we pick the word, our staff reviews the motor plan of the core word on each system. We provide symbol supports in all languages.

”©Have you used the core words with students who are English Language Learners struggling with expressive language?

No. However, research supports that core vocabulary makes up over 80% of the English language.

”©How do you track the child’s progress with learning and using a core word? Any collection of data?

I use a simple sheet for group that allows me to take data during the whole group that includes whether or not the student was able to locate the specific word of the week receptively/use it expressively, and the frequency at which they are participating using their device (whether to protest, comment, request, etc.).

”©How do you incorporate this in a differentiated classroom?

I have classrooms that have only a few students using AAC devices; however, all of the students benefit from the language instruction.

<h3<”©Do you write specific goals and objectives around core vocabulary?

I have written many different types of goals for my AAC users. Depending on the student I will target a number of core words; for example, “student will learn/use x number of core words for the duration of the IEP.” I will also write goals on the types of words. For example, “student will use descriptive words (target: big/little, fast/slow, pretty/different, etc.).”

In your speech room, do you ever prompt a student to use the core word, or do you always model and leave it at that?

Yes! I will start with modeling the word. If it’s a word I am confident they are trying to use, for example, they are reaching for the chips, I will give a gestural cue toward the device. If they continue to reach for the chips, I will then give a gestural cue toward the area around the word eat. If they still don’t use the word, I will model, “eat” or “eat chips.”

Where can I get more information about Unique Learning System?

You can learn more about Unique Learning System here.

About the Author

Meredith Harrah is a national certified and state licensed Speech-Language Pathologist currently working as a school-based therapist in Mentor, OH. Meredith received her bachelor's degree from Ohio University and her Master of Science in Speech-Language Pathology from the University of Akron. She has treated children with a range of challenges, including autism; Down syndrome; cerebral palsy; hearing impairments; and fluency, articulation/phonology, and expressive/receptive language disabilities.