“I Like” Predictable Chart Writing: Using Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) and Project Core

If you’ve been following along, we’ve been talking about emergent literacy. This is the third post about using augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) with Speak for Yourself and Project Core. If you’re just jumping in, you may want to start from the first post. However, even if your child/student is not yet engaging in shared reading, I’d still encourage you to give predictable chart writing a try.

We talked about shared reading last week, and I said I love it. It’s true. I do love it. But loving emergent literacy strategies is like loving children when you have more than one. I love them all the same, but differently.  While most parents say they don’t have a “favorite” child, predictable chart writing is my “secret favorite” emergent literacy strategy. We just connect on a special level.

Predictable Chart Writing and Project Core

The Project Core Team that presented Using Core Vocabulary in Emergent Literacy Instructional Routines at the Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA) conference described five steps to predictable chart writing which are carried out over 5 days. Keep in mind that as you do this, you will modify parts of the process to work for your classroom/student. There is flexibility in how you use predictable chart writing. The key learning principles for you to keep in mind are outlined in the Project Core evaluation form. Use the evaluation form provided in the Project Core Implementation Resources to guide your activity:

The 5 Steps with an “I like” Example:

Step 1: Write the chart

Start by choosing a topic that is motivating and age appropriate with the goal being to get each student commenting. The sentence stem is the part of the chart that you are going to write. The sentence is going to start the same for each child in your group. Each word in sentence stem is one of the 36 project core words. Some examples are: Stop,  I like, I can put on, Can I go, I want some, Do you like. Of course, that’s for the Project Core piece. If you have more advanced communicators, incorporate the core words you’ve taught them. The idea of using the same sentence stem is to use repetition with variety. In this example, the sentence stem is “I like.” Give a model by doing the first one.

The “I like” chart that was created with a 4-year-old’s help. She did the blue writing. My thumb is covering her sister’s name.

Step 2: Reread and work with the chart

Point to each of the sentence that you wrote on your chart during the previous day/session. Touch each word as you read it. Model the sentences on the student’s device. For this part, I suggest finding some pictures of your student’s responses and pairing them with the written sentence. By doing this, you’re teaching them to read the sentence stem (the core words), but also giving them a way to read the entire sentence if  “Santa” isn’t readable by the entire class.

Step 3: Work with sentence strips

Type and print the sentences in the chart for each student or cut the chart (if it was an individual activity). Cut the sentences in strips and ask the student how he wants the sentence cut. Find all of the same words (i.e. find all of the “I”s, find all of the “like”s). Have the child put the sentences in order and glue them on paper.

Sentence strip reading “I like Santa” waiting for child to point to where it should be cut.

Know your goals:

If your goal is to target literacy, according to research, you should use only words (no symbols). However, if your goal is to target communication using AAC, symbol support is beneficial.

One of the things that the Speak for Yourself app allows you to do is to save a cropped photo of the message window. If you want to create sentence strips with symbol support to encourage AAC use or to give classroom aides a “cheat sheet” for modeling, you can also create the strips with symbols. You can also use them in a language activity so that your expressive language and writing targets are parallel. Here’s an example:

Step 4: Play be the sentence (game)

Act the sentences out. What does “I like cookies” look like? (picture Cookie Monster eating cookies). “I like Santa” had us saying “ho ho ho” while holding our bellies and laughing. We pointed up at pretend castles and covered our mouths in awe. This should be fun and may take some modeling by the adults in the classroom for the kids catch on that you want them to act silly. But maybe not. “I like baby” (which ended up being on the next page of our chart when we realized – with panic – that we forgot it:), had us holding a baby in our arms and looking at it with love.

The finished page of “I like baby,” with the screen and message window of Speak for Yourself also reading, “I like baby.”

Step 5: Make the book

Read each sentence and put a picture with it. Put the book together and make a copy for your classroom library. Send the child’s book home for practice or keep it with their classroom items.

Little hand glueing Santa where she wants him next to the page that reads, “I like Santa.”

Getting to know Predictable Chart Writing

Here are some of the reasons Predictable chart writing is my favorite. (Since it’s not a secret anymore.;)

Predictable chart writing is low maintenance compared to some of the other strategies we use as speech-language pathologists (SLPs), teachers, and parents. You can make it as elaborate as you want or you can do it sitting on the living room floor of a four-year-old on homebound instruction. You can use it with one child or with an entire class of children. You can use it with preschoolers or you can use it with high school students. Predictable chart writing seamlessly allows you to differentiate instruction to meet children where they are.

Predictable chart writing makes everyone feel successful. When you’re starting to use it, start with an error-proof stem. For the example I’m including in this post, I used “I like.” When you use something general, the child can pick pretty much anything and be “right.” Are you going to argue with a child who says he likes the “Golden Gate Bridge?” Nope. You’re going to write it down and find a picture. Are you going to tell a child who says she likes “Santa” that it’s not Christmas anymore and she has to try again? No way! You’re going to write it down and find or draw a picture of Santa.

Predictable chart writing provides the perfect framework for the key AAC practices woven throughout implementation: Encourage communication, attribute meaning, and model!

Predictable chart writing promotes writing AND reading. In five sessions you create a book that was written BY your student(s) and can be read BY your student(s)! You are helping your student(s) to create a familiar library of core vocabulary-based books. Every book you create is going to have something in it that was added by each student. Remember in the beginning of this post, I suggested to try predictable chart writing, even if your student isn’t a shared reading fan? This is the reason. You may be able to “back in” to shared reading with books that the student helped to write. She’ll know that the “I like” book has a picture of the thing she likes most in the world. With that knowledge, she may be willing to spend a little shared reading time with you.

This week, take whatever small step you need to start predictable chart writing. Even if it’s not perfect. Even if your students need a lot of support initially. Give them an opportunity to surprise and impress you. Think of a parent’s reaction to your note saying that their child is working on writing a book. Imagine the feeling as you walk out of the classroom on Friday knowing that you worked on literacy this week. Give predictable chart writing a chance to be your favorite emergent literacy strategy too.

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