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APR 30 2019
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Tip of the Month May 2019 - Home School News

Posted by: Polly Thomas in Tip of the Month

Posted in Tip of the Month

Home School News: Using a coreboard, PODD book or communication device

Involving students in sharing their news about their day at school or their news from home is a great time to develop language skills.

Most of us like talking about ourselves...what we have been doing, our stories and events from the day etc. Doing this daily with a familiar structure and visuals can really help students using coreboards, PODD books or devices to learn to navigate around their systems and build vocabulary in a meaningful and motivating communication exchange. 

How to complete Home School News Activity

Find a time towards the end of the school day (school news) or the end of the evening or weekend (home news) to sit and chat with your student/child about their news using their coreboard, PODD book or communication device.

Use a set of visuals to provide prompts for the things you might talk about...


Download School Chat news here

Download Home Chat news here

Use a laminated sheet to record the answers your student or child gives you by you writing the information down on the sheet as your student/child chats using their communication system. This isn’t a writing activity for your student/child...it’s a chatting time...you are the scribe of the conversation and are recording the chat so they can share it with someone later.

You show the visual and ask the questions and your student (with support in the beginning) navigates to the appropriate page in their system to provide some answers.

E.g. You ask them what was their favourite thing they did today? (show favourite visual). They navigate to ‘school subjects’ page and select ‘swimming’. You write ‘swimming’ down for them on the sheet.

The student/child then takes the sheet home to share with family or takes the sheet to school to share with the school team.

Take your time completing this with your student/child. There is so much language to be found in their AAC system, and so much navigating to different places to find the words needed, that it is such a valuable learning time. Brainstorm together where in the system to find vocab to describe any ‘out of the ordinary’ things that have happened that day that your student/child might really want to share. Another fantastic language skill!

Some examples of record sheets you might use

Make your own sheet using Word. Make the questions you ask match the visual prompts you are using. You can make the sheet as simple or as complex as you like, to match the language levels of the child you are using it with.

Repetition with Variety

Having a framework for recording a student’s news from home or school allows students to become familiar with a routine and be confident in participating in it with increasing independence while not becoming bored as it will always include some variety. Home school news is a great example of this....it can be repeated each day but the content will always be different.

Tip/cheat sheet                                                    

Finding the pages where the vocab is stored can be a challenge to begin with, for both you and your student. This is especially true for PODD users.

In the beginning, try making yourself a cheat sheet which lists where the vocab is for each question.

E.g. What day is it today? (Days/Times page)

       Where did you go today? (Places page)

For PODD users using a 12 and 20 symbols per sheet here is a cheat sheet with the pathway added to get to the vocab you need for each question. 


If you are using a different PODD lay out you can use the same concept and make yourself a cheat sheet by checking and listing the pathways you need onto a cheat sheet before you start using it with your student/child.

This has the added advantage that lots of different people can complete the activity but will use the same language to help consolidate the learning.

Verbal Referencing (talking aloud about what you are doing as you model it to students)

Do lots of talking out loud with your student/child about where they need to navigate to as you move around the system. This will help them learn the pathways and categories themselves and move towards being able to independently navigate to finds words in the future.

E.g. Who did you play with today? Let’s go to ‘People/School friends’ page and find all your friends.

Signing the letter

Being able to write their own name is a really important first step in developing literacy skills for our students with complex communication needs. Adding this component in at the end of the letter gives another opportunity for our students to practise this. Writing your name independently using an alternative pencil (not copying over or copying from a model) for students who may not have the fine motor skills to use a pencil or pen has been covered in a previous tip of the month (I can write my name using an alternative pencil). Here is a great time to grab your alternative pencil and let your student sign the letter themselves. Remember to write down exactly what letters they point to and afterwards read it back and say...’this is how I would write your name’ and then model the correct way underneath their version.

Two great videos showing this in action here

Happy news sharing!

Created by Polly Thomas

To download a PDF of this tip of the month, please click here

Home School News: Using a coreboard, PODD book or communication device

Involving students in sharing their news about their day at school or their news from home is a great time to develop language skills.

Most of us like talking about ourselves...what we have been doing, our stories and events from the day etc. Doing this daily with a familiar structure and visuals can really help students using coreboards, PODD books or devices to learn to navigate around their systems and build vocabulary in a meaningful and motivating communication exchange. 

How to complete Home School News Activity

Find a time towards the end of the school day (school news) or the end of the evening or weekend (home news) to sit and chat with your student/child about their news using their coreboard, PODD book or communication device.

Use a set of visuals to provide prompts for the things you might talk about...


Download School Chat news here

Download Home Chat news here

Use a laminated sheet to record the answers your student or child gives you by you writing the information down on the sheet as your student/child chats using their communication system. This isn’t a writing activity for your student/child...it’s a chatting time...you are the scribe of the conversation and are recording the chat so they can share it with someone later.

You show the visual and ask the questions and your student (with support in the beginning) navigates to the appropriate page in their system to provide some answers.

E.g. You ask them what was their favourite thing they did today? (show favourite visual). They navigate to ‘school subjects’ page and select ‘swimming’. You write ‘swimming’ down for them on the sheet.

The student/child then takes the sheet home to share with family or takes the sheet to school to share with the school team.

Take your time completing this with your student/child. There is so much language to be found in their AAC system, and so much navigating to different places to find the words needed, that it is such a valuable learning time. Brainstorm together where in the system to find vocab to describe any ‘out of the ordinary’ things that have happened that day that your student/child might really want to share. Another fantastic language skill!

Some examples of record sheets you might use

Make your own sheet using Word. Make the questions you ask match the visual prompts you are using. You can make the sheet as simple or as complex as you like, to match the language levels of the child you are using it with.

Repetition with Variety

Having a framework for recording a student’s news from home or school allows students to become familiar with a routine and be confident in participating in it with increasing independence while not becoming bored as it will always include some variety. Home school news is a great example of this....it can be repeated each day but the content will always be different.

Tip/cheat sheet                                                    

Finding the pages where the vocab is stored can be a challenge to begin with, for both you and your student. This is especially true for PODD users.

In the beginning, try making yourself a cheat sheet which lists where the vocab is for each question.

E.g. What day is it today? (Days/Times page)

       Where did you go today? (Places page)

For PODD users using a 12 and 20 symbols per sheet here is a cheat sheet with the pathway added to get to the vocab you need for each question. 


If you are using a different PODD lay out you can use the same concept and make yourself a cheat sheet by checking and listing the pathways you need onto a cheat sheet before you start using it with your student/child.

This has the added advantage that lots of different people can complete the activity but will use the same language to help consolidate the learning.

Verbal Referencing (talking aloud about what you are doing as you model it to students)

Do lots of talking out loud with your student/child about where they need to navigate to as you move around the system. This will help them learn the pathways and categories themselves and move towards being able to independently navigate to finds words in the future.

E.g. Who did you play with today? Let’s go to ‘People/School friends’ page and find all your friends.

Signing the letter

Being able to write their own name is a really important first step in developing literacy skills for our students with complex communication needs. Adding this component in at the end of the letter gives another opportunity for our students to practise this. Writing your name independently using an alternative pencil (not copying over or copying from a model) for students who may not have the fine motor skills to use a pencil or pen has been covered in a previous tip of the month (I can write my name using an alternative pencil). Here is a great time to grab your alternative pencil and let your student sign the letter themselves. Remember to write down exactly what letters they point to and afterwards read it back and say...’this is how I would write your name’ and then model the correct way underneath their version.

Two great videos showing this in action here

Happy news sharing!

Created by Polly Thomas

To download a PDF of this tip of the month, please click here