Use Core Words

Words represented by symbols and used frequently and flexibly across the day are more likely to be learned by a student. Core words include verbs, adjectives/adverbs, and prepositions.

Word examples include: go, stop, like, want, play, more.

Nouns are used as ‘fringe vocabulary’ because they are unique to the user. For example, the core word “go” can be used with fringe to say “go to the gym”, “go to lunch” or “go to the bathroom”; similarly the core word “want” can be paired with other core words to say “want more”, “want to eat” or ”want to play“.

Nouns (fringe) complete the sentence “I want to play music/ball/game”.

When pronouns are used with the flexible core words, single words become multiple word sentences with appropriate structure “I want more ______.”


Core words are any number of words arranged in an array. No-tech folders or dynamic display devices work well for core arrangements. The most important feature, however, is that the position of the word/symbol does not change. This feature reinforces motor memory and speeds the efficiency with which the student can use the board. This place-holding feature also supports learners who use tactile symbols.

In the image shown, Boardmaker (Tobi Dynavox) is shown, however any symbol system can be used. The color codes represent the type of word. Black backgrounds are easier to see than white back grounds. Fewer words may be displayed, but the size remains the same so that the position is maintained.

Watch the video clip of a student using a deconstructed board. Using Aided Language Modeling, the woman points to each symbol, emphasizes the word, speaks slowly and inserts pauses.

Using a core word curriculum can create the link to literacy instruction by highlighting core words in books and other learning activities. For example, if the core word of the week is “Go”, then using books such as PD Eastman’s “Go, Dog. Go!”, songs such as “Wake me up before you Go Go… and games that emphasize the word further reinforce it’s use.


Using core words increases the number of opportunities to communicate across the day, which in turn results in a higher level of word acquisition. It is flexible in terms of the format – low tech (core folders) to high tech (dynamic display devices). Core words can bridge communication with literacy by using books and activities that highlight the core words.


Project Core:
Tactile Connections – APH:
PrAACtical AAC:
Tobii Dynavox (2019). Boardmaker Symbols © used with permission.