enABLING Teachers -- Activity #8 -- Vocabulary selection strategies

Expand Your Vocabulary Selection Strategies New!

Suggestions for Educators:

We all know that the commercially available vocabularies are not always just what AAC users want to talk about. You can learn (or have your students learn) about 23 strategies for selecting vocabulary for AAC users. Then incorporate some of these strategies into lectures and/or class activities.

Step 1. Learn new strategies from the UW Augcomm web site
Step 2. Have students make & use "communication notebooks" for each other
Step 3:
Have students write a critique of the communication notebook they made
Step 4: Have students discuss their experience using a communication notebook

1. Learn new strategies from the UW Augcomm web site

Visit the UW Augcomm web site. On that site, there is an overview of vocabulary selection strategies entitled "Selecting AAC Vocabulary" with worksheets and/or links for each. You and/or your students should read through all the strategies and then put them into practice in the exercise below. Here is a list of the strategies covered in detail on the Augcomm web site:

1. Likes and Dislikes Checklist
2. Observation of AAC User in Communicative Contexts
3. Communication Breakdown Diary
4. Analysis of Inappropriate Behaviors
5. Review Existing Vocabulary
6. Environmental Inventory
7. Participation Inventory
8. Topic Inventory
9. Topic-specific Conversation with Partner
10. Observation of Speaking Peers/Friends/Family Members
11. Observation/transcription of Speaking Partner and AAC User
12. Role Playing and Dialoguing
13. Vocabulary for Language Learning
14. Novel Vocabulary, Gathered Through Hints
15. Large Commercial Vocabularies
16. Small Commercial Vocabularies
17. Public Domain Vocabulary (from the Internet)
18. Words and Phrases from other AAC Users
19. Words and Phrases from Speakers
20. Control Phrases from other AAC Users
21. Small Talk Phrases from other AAC Users
22. Programming Predictable Messages for Quick Retrieval
23. Using Prediction for Rate Enhancement

2. Have students make communication notebooks for each other

As a quarter long project, have students make a communication notebook for a classmate to use in conversation with a third classmate. The student making the display will be in the role of the SLP, making the display, observing it in use and then writing a critical paper. The communication notebook must be developed using vocabulary selection strategies (above) that are appropriate for "context dependent" communicators, those who are dependent on others to provide vocabulary. On the day of the planned conversation, the "client" for whom the book was made will see the display for the first time. During the conversation (with the third student) he/she will pretend to be a non-speaker who was never taught to spell/read/write, but is otherwise of normal cognition and developmental abilities. The student who made the notebook is to observe and note ways in which the display needs to be improved.

Hint: Make sure there is a focus to the conversation so that students don't just plan to talk about the symbols in front of them. Make sure they have to convey some concrete information to their fellow students.

3. Have students write a critique of the communication notebook they made

Communication notebooks are never finished because they are always an imperfect estimate of what the individual needs for communication. Only through observation and subsequent revisions does the notebook improve in function. Therefore, the student should be graded primarily on his/her observations and plans for revising and improving the notebook.

4. Have students discuss their experience using a communication notebook

Students are generally surprised how difficult it is to communicate with a limited vocabulary that is chosen by someone else. They should write up a description of how they felt as well as specific suggestions for things to change in the communication notebook.