Planning how you will teach AAC to your students is an important part of successful implementation. You  need a structured approach with a sequence of instruction to ensure you are systematically teaching a wide variety of words and functions to your students, across increasingly natural situations.   This is where AAC Lesson Planning comes into play!  Lesson planning forms and tools are highly variable.  This may be as simple as taking a lesson plan process you are already using, and adding some AAC targets. It could mean just taking the time to locate the vocabulary on the student's system before you start your already planned out lesson! You might choose to use a lesson plan document designed specifically for students using AAC.  The best strategy is to use the lesson planning process YOU are most likely to actually utilize.  Creating a beautiful lesson plan that you won't implement is not a valuable use of your time. Let's look at some components to consider, and some options!

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Lesson Plan Communication Components

  • Communication Materials
  • Objectives
  • Background Knowledge
  • Rehearsal
  • Practice with Guidance
  • Modeling with Collaboration
  • Generalization
  • ​TOOLS

Discussion of Components


In addition to the materials needed to complete the activity, think about what the student needs to be able to communicate within the lesson effectively.  This could be any of the following:

Which Communication Tool is best?

Generally speaking, our goal is at all times to be encouraging long term communication skills, regardless of the activity.  You will need to provide the student's robust AAC system as much as possible to generalize communication skills to their natural, spontaneous environment.  If the student has a individual speech generating device, AAC application on a tablet (ipad) or a comprehensive communication book, you will want to locate the targeted vocabulary in their communication system, rather than printing out activity boards.  Activity boards are best used when the vocabulary you are using is not valuable for long term use, for example, the names of characters in a book.


For each activity, you will want to consider what communication objectives are most critical for the student.  The objectives may be as simple as student participation by  visually attending to a model of the use of the picture symbols during the story book reading; or as complex as using their AAC system to write a sentence defending the characters choice in the book.  Objectives typically come from the IEP.  As you are developing the communication objectives on the student's IEP, you can use the Classroom Communication Goals Grid to help you identify the student's current level of performance and to select appropriate communication goals in your classroom.


​Relating what you know, to what you are about to study is an integral part of learning. In Building Background Knowledge for Academic Achievement: Research on What Works in Schools, Robert Marzano writes, "What students already know about the content is one of the strongest indicators of how well they will learn new information relative to the content" (2004, p. 1). Background knowledge typically describes what the student knows about the topic or subject of the upcoming activity/lesson. We are also asking, "what do they know about communicating about that topic! "

  • Do they know where the relevant vocabulary is located in their AAC system?
  • Do they already know those words and how to say them, sign them, spell them or find them on their AAC app?

Part of connecting students to the activity includes looking through our AAC system and determining what we already know that could help us learn the new vocabulary in the activity.  If we are studying Sea Animals today, do we already know how to find "Farm Animals" in our device?

  • Teachers might explain how just like "farm animals," the dolphin is going to be in the "Animal Folder," except under a new category "Sea Animals."
  • Students can learn where their new words/linking folders exist in their AAC device in relation to the buttons they know.  In this example, the teacher can guide the student to go to the Farm Animals button and look 2 columns over to find the sea creatures!

REHEARSAL- Direct Instruction of Communication Targets

Direct instruction (rehearsal) is the introduction of the new concept you are targeting. This will involve introducing the new vocabulary and, in the case of AAC users, how you "say" it.  We will "pre-teach" the new words by  introducing the student to the new symbols in their device that they will be using during the activity, for example "dolphin," "octopus" and "whale." We may "rehearse" these playing a "find the.." game on our AAC systems or boards.  Once you've introduced the vocabulary, you'll get to the actual lesson. As you are teaching, be sure you are modeling the new symbols, as well as modeling how to communicate during the activity.  In addition to pointing to "octopus" every time you say this new word, you might also model core words such as "look" at the "octopus," using your AAC system.

PRACTICE with Guidance- Using new communication skills within the activity with support

Once the student has been introduced to the new words/messages in a structured, non-communicative task ("find the...") you will begin to introduce the words/messages in the context of the academic task. You will use guided practice to involve your students in using the new symbols, but with maximum support and encouragement from you.  You'll continue to act as the primary communicator, modeling the use of the words/symbols, but gradually prompting the student to take the lead.

MODELING with collaborative practice

Once the student has been able to watch you and practice with maximum support, you will begin to use the new words/messages more interactively in the context of the activity.  You may have peers work with the student, modeling and practicing the use of the words/messages.  The teacher will remain available to support the use of the new words/messages.


Generalization is the use of the words/messages outside of the context of the lesson plan.  This is where we are able to see a student's understanding of the words/messages and to use them for real communication!  You can begin this process by considering the student's daily activities and looking for times that they could begin to use their new words/messages for functional communication and conversation.

Lesson Planning Tools

Classroom Communication Project Lesson Planning Form

A weekly plan to incorporate communication into a regularly planned classroom activity.  Designed to consider our 5 Classroom Communication Goals, this tool helps you plan your communication targets for each of 4 days, select vocabulary to target and consider the format of the symbols (words, pictures, symbols or objects).

Classroom Communication Project (CCP) Schedule Analysis:

This form is for teachers to complete a detailed schedule of their AAC user(s) day.  Information includes the activity, partners and the messages teachers feel their student(s) need(s).  There is an additional worksheet for teachers to give us information regarding student and teacher names, favorite foods, places, activities etc.  We will use this form to start customizing student AAC systems to match your classroom.  We will make cheat sheets for you so that you can help your student interact during normal activities in your classroom.   Click the image on the left, download the file and complete.  Once completed, please print this form to a PDF and SUBMIT it to us below.  

Classroom Communication Project (CCP) Passport:

The Passport is a single page document some teachers use to plan activities to meet our 5 Classroom Communication Goals. This tool gives you a simple plan for activities to get you started.

Image of AAC Recipe for Success form

AAC Recipes for Success: Daily School Scheduled Activities

Our all new recipes tool gives you a very simple planning document that helps you plan communication opportunities in a single activity. You'll consider which specific words you will focus on during the activity including core vocabulary words (verbs and describing words-think "sight words" for communication) and specific fringe words (nouns). You also have a space to plan on the communication purpose for these words. How will you target requesting? You could use words like "want" (core) or "marker" (fringe). Can you put these into short 2-word phrases? Are there opportunities to use your word(s) to comment? You might say "like it" or "not like!"


Marzano, Robert J. Building Background Knowledge for Academic Achievement: Research on What Works in Schools, Hawker Brownlow Education, 2005, pp. 1–1. ​

McClymont, Geri. “7 Components of an Effective Classroom Lesson Plan.” Owlcation, Owlcation, 8 Aug. 2016,