Classroom Toolbox Training

The Classroom Toolbox is a virtual toolbox of resources to help teachers provide adapted communication supports to students in their classrooms. In here you'll find the Classroom Communication Supports Checklist to help you determine what supports you already have in place, ones you have but aren't using, and ones you are interested in exploring. For every communication support, there's a learning module to explore, with photos, descriptions, components, links to comprehensive resources and curated YouTube videos. These modules will help you confidently increase the communication supports for your students!

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Building the Communication Classroom Series

  • Getting Oriented (3 lessons)​
  • Present Level of Performance: How do my students communicate? (3 lessons)​
  • Can You Hear Me Now?   Classroom Routines, Expectations & Visual Supports (7 lessons)​
  • Simple Communication Systems: Light Tech (5 lessons)​
  • Embedding Communication Into Your Classroom (5 lessons)​
  • IEP Time! Progress, Present Levels and Goals (2 lessons)​
  • AAC 101: Simple Steps for Student Communication​
  • The Core Word Classroom​

There is a wealth of information and materials for you on our website, so you may be asking yourself, "Where in the world do I start?" No worries, we've got you! This is the first stop in your training! In this unit we will be answering some primary questions to get you started!

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Starting Young: Communication in Early Intervention & the Preschool Classroom

Our specialized training hub dedicated to supporting communication success in Early Intervention in the home and our preschool classrooms

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Communication Systems Series

  • Getting Started with a New Communication System (3 lessons)​
  • Understanding Robust AAC Systems (3 lessons)​
  • AAC Feature Considerations (5 lessons)​
  • Speech Generating Devices & Applications (3 lessons) ​

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Partner Strategy Kits

  • Interaction Strategies (3 lessons)​
  • AAC Access (3 lessons)​
  • Engagement (3 lessons)​
  • Language Support Strategies (5 lessons)​

Partner Strategy Kits

AAC Partner Strategy Kits are engaging posters/handouts, descriptions and short videos explaining and modeling techniques for you to use to help your student be willing, and able to communicate using their AAC system!

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AAC Assessment Series

  • Communication Matrix:  Forms & Functions​
  • Student Communication Goals Grid​
  • Every Move Counts, Clicks & Chats: Motivators, Sensory Needs, Forms & Functions​
  • Communication Sample & Analysis​
  • Dynamic AAC Goals Grid (DAGG)​
  • AAC Evaluation Genie Training​
  • AAC Communication Skills Assessment-2​
  • Dynamic AAC Advanced Consultation FORM​
  • Team & Family Involvement

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DTA Schools Evaluation and Funding

  • DTA Schools Process Introduction​
  • DTA Schools Referral & Records Review​
  • DTA Schools Dynamic AAC Assessment & Trials Process​
  • AAC Funding Sources​
  • SGD Evaluation Report Writing​
  • Working with SGD Manufacturers
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Empowering Families: AAC At Home

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High Frequency Core Words & Messages

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AAC 101

5 steps to move from training to talking, give you a clear path for you and your student learner. Learning to communicate is a shared journey between the learner and their partners, and that makes sense! Communication is a shared activity between two people. It is the means for us to make connections, meet our needs, engage socially, participate in shared experiences, and bridge the gap between our experiences and sharing these their partners.

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Alphabet & Phonological ​Awareness

Description

Teaching the alphabet and alphabet sounds is something all teachers do, but we need to take a little closer look to consider how we are teaching these concepts to our students with special needs.  This instructional activity includes alphabet knowledge, the ability to recognize letter names, sounds and shapes; and phonological awareness, the ability to understand and manipulate individual sounds and phonemes. Alphabetic knowledge is knowing that words are made of letters which stand for speech sounds. Phonological awareness means the student can match the sounds to the letters in words to "decode" what they are seeing into what they are saying (in other words, READING). These two concepts together represent the Alphabetic Principle.

We are NOT the experts, but we know who they are!  Please use this page as a reference site to help you locate all of the amazing resources that you have available to you!  Please feel free to skip our info and go straight to the experts by STARTING HERE!

"There is NO EVIDENCE to support that isolated instruction of alphabet knowledge has any impact on important reading-related outcomes. "

From:  Research Based Practices for Creating Access to the General Curriculum in Reading and Literacy for Students with Significant Intellectual Disabilities

Components

Instruction in alphabet and phonological awareness does NOT mean DRILL AND KILL naming of letters.  We have decades of research that tells us the best way to teach these skills is through functional, meaningful, IN CONTEXT use of letters and sounds during typical daily, purposeful and MOTIVATING activities.  So, how do we do it?  Let's explore....

We need to explicitly instruct students in...

  • the sounds different letters make
  • how manipulating the letters/sounds in words changes the word, the way it sounds and what it means!

...AND the tricky part is that we need to introduce the USE of these skills right at the beginning of our instruction, rather than using rote drill. So rather than that "letter of the day," think organic instruction targeting the letters we encounter (and target) in other meaningful.   So we aren't just playing with random letters and words, but using these skills when we are making books, writing lists, creating our Predictable Charts, learning the names of our friends, our favorite things, places and other people.

What letters do we start with, and how long do we teach a letter before moving to the next one? What's wrong with the "letter of the week?"

Research by Jones, Clarke and Reutzel suggests a different approach based on empirical evidence that targets "multiple distributed instructional cycles," meaning the letters are introduced more quickly, and then revisited more frequently.  Here's the not-too-scary research article you can download. This downloadable article also gives you an easy to follow Lesson Template for explicit instruction of alphabet letters too!

***You can also read a lot more about this in Comprehensive Literacy for All, Chapter 3, pgs 33-48.

Here are some ideas for targeting Alphabet and Phonological Awareness in more typical activities:

  • Alphabet books: Yes! Even for older students! These are simply books with one page per letter with a representative photo.  To make these apply to all of our students, you'll choose a theme/topic for your ABC book.  These themes can be animals, foods and vehicles OR more specifically related to the high interest topics of your students.  Think Star Wars, Disney, Legos or the NFL!  These aren't books you will find on the shelves of the library, so you will be making them yourself OR finding ones other people have made.  Tarheel Reader is the BEST place to find, and make your own Alphabet Books.  There are THOUSANDS of books to choose from! Click here to see a curated list of specific alphabet books!
  • Specifically talk about the letters and sounds as you encounter them during reading and writing activities, and during typical activities during your day.  This is EASY! Just point letters out, talk about the sounds they make, what other words have the same sounds?
  • Reference letters in familiar logos, signs, and around your environment.  "S" for Starbucks beats "s" for snake ANYDAY!
  • Build an alphabet word wall. You know those ABC posters we line up around the top of our walls?  Start making word cards  to place under each letter poster, each time you organically (or sneakily plan to) find around your room, in your activities, within your stories or subjects.  Be on the lookout for specific words around your environment that are interesting enough to add to the Word Wall list.  "B" - Bayon, barbeque, BattleBots, bread

Are my students too OLD to work on the alphabet?  Hasn't that "ship sailed" once we hit middle and high school? ABSOLUTELY NOT.

"Emergent literacy begins at birth. It is not restricted by age or disability and develops as a result of opportunity and experience." American Speech and Hearing Association, Literacy in Individuals with Severe Disabilities

But aren't there a lot of more important "functional" goals we need to target for older students??? ACTUALLY, NO.

"The opportunity to learn to read and write should be afforded to all, regardless of spoken communication ability. The benefits of being able to read and write for individuals with severe disabilities are numerous. Perhaps most importantly, the ability to spell, even at very beginning levels, gives individuals with severe communication impairments the ability to communicate anything they want. In addition, the ability to read and write opens a critical path to the acquisition of, and access to, many forms of knowledge and experience within our contemporary society. From early school experiences through adult employment, literacy skills are needed to maximize participation. Education, self-determination, employment, quality of life, and enjoyment all may hinge on an individual's ability to read and/or to write."  American Speech and Hearing Association, Literacy in Individuals with Severe Disabilities

Development Resources

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Guided Reading

Reading, Writing, and AAC

Lesson

1

Shared Reading Instruction & Adaptations

Shared Reading is a simple and effective way to improve language and literacy skills in our students.

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Lesson

2

Predictable Chart Writing

Predictable chart writing is a system for helping students express themselves in a highly supported manner as they are learning skills they need for conventional writing.

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Lesson

3

Alphabet & Phonological ​Awareness

Teaching the alphabet and alphabet sounds is something all teachers do, but we need to take a little closer look to consider how we are teaching these concepts to our students with special needs.

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Lesson

4

Guided Reading

Guided Reading is a term that often describes instructional strategies designed to help students develop active strategies for reading with comprehension.

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Lesson

5

Independent (Self-Selected) Reading ​

Self-selected, or independent reading, is a situation the teacher creates which encourages and supports students in participating in reading activities.  

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6

Independent Writing Instruction

We are considering how we teach students to communicate messages, share information, thoughts, feelings and ideas through traditional writing.

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Lesson

Classroom Communication Checklist

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Lesson

SETT Framework

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Lesson

Student Communication Goals Grid: Preparation for Assessment

We know the Classroom Communication Goals Grid is your GO-TO for IEP development, but did you know this tool also gives you a LOT of the information you need to begin to determine appropriate AAC device options?  In this 16 minute video you join us as we are planning for an actual evaluation, choosing the devices and AAC apps we will be taking when we meet our new student!

More information is available here on the use of the Student Communication Goals Grid for IEP development: determining present levels of performance, goal selection and progress monitoring.

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First Lesson Name

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1

AAC Partner Core Vocabulary Training

Integrating core vocabulary into your daily routine is a perfect start to give students access to "powerful" words for communicating across all of your typical activities and environments!

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Lesson

1

Student Accessible Daily Schedule ​

Accessible schedule displays are visual representations of the major activities of the school day.  Much like our own daily calendars, they help students predict upcoming activities and to prepare themselves for their day.  Knowing upcoming events, and the events that follow, allows students to tolerate less desired activities by anticipating ones they enjoy!

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1

Choice Making Symbols, Photos & Objects

Choice-making is one of the first communication functions we learn.  For students using AAC, we often use choice-making to ensure they are motivated to communicate.  There are many different choices students can make throughout the day.

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Lesson

1

Shared Reading Instruction & Adaptations

Shared Reading is a simple and effective way to improve language and literacy skills in our students.

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Lesson

1

Communication Matrix: Assessing Forms & Functions

The Communication Matrix is a wonderful tool that let's us find out HOW and WHY your emergent communicator communicates!

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1

Finding the Why of AAC

There is a wealth of information and materials for you on our website, so you may be asking yourself, "Where in the world do I start?" No worries, we've got you! This is the first stop in your training! In this unit we will be answering some primary questions to get you started!

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Lesson

1

Routine Target Posters

Let's be intentional about the words and messages we target and model throughout the day! Here's a simple planner you can use!

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1

AAC 101 Steps of Learning Introduction

5 steps to move from training to talking, give you a clear path for you and your student learner.

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2

Second Lesson Name

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2

Printed Core Vocabulary Displays​

Printed Core Boards are  tools that we add to the classroom to allow all students access to these POWER WORDS in the classroom.

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Lesson

2

Token Based Work System

A token work system is a visual representation of task accomplishment.  Students are given a clear visual cue of how much time needs to be spent on the task, how many components of the task need to be accomplished and, how much time or tasks are left before they receive a reward, take a break, or finish an activity.

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Lesson

2

Predictable Chart Writing

Predictable chart writing is a system for helping students express themselves in a highly supported manner as they are learning skills they need for conventional writing.

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Lesson

2

Intro to AAC Partner Strategies: Modeling (Aided Language Input)

Interestingly, one of the most effective ways that we can support our students ability to communicate is by monitoring our own communicative behavior! On our website you will find a multitude of partner strategies to encourage our students to communicate. In this very first introduction, we are investigating the most effective strategy in our toolbox, Aided Language Input, or "modeling!"

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Lesson

2

Student Communication Survey

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2

Classroom Schedule Analysis

The Classroom Communication Environment gives us exactly what we need to determine appropriate communication targets that are the MOST meaningful to your students during the day.

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2

AAC 101 Choosing Targets for Communication

In Step One we will be determining which words and messages we need to specifically target for instruction. We often complete the step, not only for targeting specific words and messages, but also when we are first designing the AAC system that our student will be using.

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3

Third Lesson Name

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3

Alphabet & Phonological ​Awareness

Teaching the alphabet and alphabet sounds is something all teachers do, but we need to take a little closer look to consider how we are teaching these concepts to our students with special needs.

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Lesson

3

First-Then (Premack Princ.) ​

First-Then boards are a very simple form of an activity schedule that are used to help students anticipate the next few moments of their time so that they can complete tasks.

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Lesson

3

Printed Fringe Vocabulary Display

For our students using light tech supports, we need to provide access to specific nouns both individually and in the classroom through communication books, posters, wall displays and classroom sized communication books.

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Lesson

3

Every Move Counts, Clicks & Chats

We're all about using a hands-on approach to communication and assistive technology for people who have significant differences in their sensory and motor abilities, as well as those with developmental variations and autism. Our goal is to find innovative ways to connect with and support these individuals in a manner that suits their unique needs. Every Move Counts, Clicks and Chats has an excellent approach to working with students who don't have conventional ways to communicate.

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Lesson

3

Intro to Communication Functions

Communication isn't just about meeting your basic wants and needs. It's also about engaging socially, sharing and requesting information, making choices, expressing your feelings, protesting and rejecting, and asking questions.

In this session we are exploring the different reasons we communicate so that we can support ALL of the messages our students need to communicate.

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Lesson

3

Student Communication Passport​

The Student Communication Passport is a tool that serves multiple functions in our project, from lesson planning, monthly theme planning and finally to share information with new partners about our students' communication.

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Lesson

3

Communication Lesson Planning Tools​

Some tools you can use to plan intentional modeling and instruction for your communication targets!

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3

AAC 101 Training Communication Targets

In Step Two we begin the process of training HOW we say the word or message.

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4

Fourth Lesson Name

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Lesson

4

Activity Schedules ​

Activity Schedules are a list of words or pictures/symbols used to cue the student to complete the steps of specific activities, or tasks.

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Lesson

4

Guided Reading

Guided Reading is a term that often describes instructional strategies designed to help students develop active strategies for reading with comprehension.

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Lesson

4

Comprehensive Communication Books

Comprehensive Communication Books, at a minimum, are comprised of fringe vocabulary (noun categories and describing words), core vocabulary (high frequency words, typically verbs, pronouns and a few descriptors) and quick comments. Let's take a look at these light tech communication options!

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Lesson

4

Intro to Embedded Communication Materials: Quicktalk 18 Book

As we've learned, one of the most effective ways for us to help our students learn to communicate through AAC is for US to communicate in the same method that we expect our students to communicate. If our student is using symbols WE use symbols! In this short training, we are introducing the DTA 18 Quicktalk Book, an easy way for us adults to begin practicing, and modeling talking with symbols!

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4

Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills: Social Messages Training Slides

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Lesson

4

AAC 101 Modeling AAC So Students Take In

Step 3 is all about the partner and their modeling of how the word/message is used in the real world.  The point of this step as for the student to begin to understand when to use these words and messages and what it looks like when someone communicates using the method that they will ultimately be using themselves.

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5

Fifth Lesson Name

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5

Independent (Self-Selected) Reading ​

Self-selected, or independent reading, is a situation the teacher creates which encourages and supports students in participating in reading activities.  

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Lesson

5

Lesson or ​Activity Based Boards

When your goal is participation and making sure your student understands the content you are introducing, activity boards may be the perfect solution!

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Lesson

5

Student Communication Goals Grid-R

The Student-Classroom Communication Goals Grid-R is al is a research informed assessment to help you develop your IEPs, giving you a present level of performance, extensive bank of communication and AAC goals, and the ability to show progress over multiple administrations from year to year!

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Lesson

5

Classroom Engineering

Picture this: a classroom specifically designed to empower AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) users in their communication journey. It's a dynamic space where every detail is meticulously engineered to facilitate effective communication for these individuals!

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Lesson

5

AAC 101 Helping Students Try It

It’s finally time to begin to offer our students the opportunity to use their AAC system for communication purposes with lots of support as they get started!!

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Lesson

6

Independent Writing Instruction

We are considering how we teach students to communicate messages, share information, thoughts, feelings and ideas through traditional writing.

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Lesson

6

Transition Supports

There are a variety of reasons individuals struggle moving from one context to another  but most of them can be alleviated by improving the communication supports to make the process more understandable.

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6

ON vs With: Working “on” a device vs. “with” a device​

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6

Classroom Communication Checklist 2.0

The Classroom Communication Checklist is a tool developed to identify communication supports in place in the classroom and to determine potential supports which may be of value to add into the existing program.  This planning tool helps teachers & administrators consider a variety of supports to help their students communicate effectively in the classroom.

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6

AAC 101 Talk Using AAC all day

We have reached the finale! At this stage our students are ready to begin to talk on their own by using their AAC system, speech, sign language, picture symbols and/or communication devices!

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