AAC in classrooms

Students with little or no speech, are often working with their parents and teachers to use a system of AAC (Augmentative and/or Alternative Communication) to communicate. Even in the busiest of classrooms, there are always opportunities to bring AAC in. We need to find ways and create ways, so that students get those multiple and repeated opportunities to see and hear how their system of communication is used. This blog post lists a HUGE variety of different communication and literacy activities that can be used in the classroom.

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My key points to get communication happening in the classroom??

Make it:






And, be:





A couple of important notes before we start:

  1. As one of my mentors, Dr Caroline Musselwhite always says “Dance with the girl you brought”! This blog post is not recommending a particular AAC system over another, rather giving you ideas to use with the system you already have in place. Many of these activities will be suitable if you are using sign language, or an AAC app on your iPad, or a BIGmack, or a Speech-Generating Device, or a symbol board from Boardmaker, or all of the above!
  2. Vocabulary – once you have a great idea for an activity, often we think about what vocabulary or words we will need to say to interact meaningfully during that activity. Sometimes, for some classrooms and students, it makes sense to program and organise all that vocabulary together. This gives us lots of opportunities to model the language for that activity, as well as allow for success in communication for our students. However, it is always important to start providing opportunities for students to see and access CORE WORD vocabulary, to allow them to move towards independent message generation. Activity-based learning is a good opportunity for you to model core word vocabulary with students. All of the activities listed in this blog post can be used with either specific vocabulary pages or core word pages.
  3. If you know me, you know I am an iPad junkie – so there will be some apps listed through the blog post that can be used with the activities, (eg. Look out for my latest favourite activity – Puppet Pal concerts!). The correct links to these apps in the App Store can be found at the end of this blog post.
  4. Also, all activities COULD be used with a wide variety of students and classrooms, regardless of age or ability level. Prepare your AAC tools to match the needs of the students you are working with.
  5. Many of these ideas are not new or different – I am just compiling them all together, here, in one place! A full list of websites that I love to check out, is also at the end of this blog post.


AAC activities for the classroom:

Morning circle

  • Mark the roll – including the chance to call the names of students out to mark the roll
  • Weather chart
  • Calendar chart – days, date, month, season, etc.
  • Feelings – how do you feel today?
  • Jobs/Chores for the day
  • Schedule/ timetable

Problem Solving

  • Feelings
  • Something’s wrong
  • I need help

Jobs around the school/in the classroom

  • People and places around the school to take messages to
  • Taking messages/running errands can be used with the Aurasma App – create the message and make a video of it and link it behind an image. When the message needs to be given – scan the image and the video will play!
  • Time caller – calls out the time when needed
  • Spelling test caller – calls out the words for the spelling test
  • Announce transitions, eg. “Pack away your book, its time to go to the library”


  • Weekend recounts
  • Today at school, I (for take-home messages)
  • Write messages, take photos and videos to make a book in Book Creator

Games & Activities

  • Scavenger Hunt around the school (you could even use the Aurasma App, with video messages giving the next clue)
  • Interactive play for favourite class toys and games (balloons, bubbles, blocks, bowling, snakes & ladders, Guess Who, etc. etc.)
  • I Spy
  • Simon Says
  • Errorless communication activities with tickles, massage (eg. tickle/massage my feet etc.) and actions (eg. jump, spin, sway).
  • Traffic lights game (eg. stop, go, fast, slow, right, left)
  • What’s the time Mr Wolf?
  • Musical chairs, Musical statues, Musical bops.
  • Ball play – bounce, roll, sit on, throw, kick etc.
  • Chinese Whispers

Jokes & Pranks

  • Knock knock jokes
  • Regular jokes (Thanks to Caroline from St.George School for telling me this joke, which is my new favourite: Q:”What is brown and sticky?” A: “a stick”!!!)

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  • Pranks – Plan who, and when, and where, you will pull your prank. Some ideas include: whoopy cushions, snakes in a present box or using the Atomic Fart app with remote detonator!.. Oh dear?! But fun!

Praise and Compliments

  • Collection of generic positive comments, eg. Amazing! You are so kind! Thanks for your help, etc.


  • Collection of appropriate greetings, eg. How are you? Have a great day, See you later alligator, etc.


  • Silly questions – Generate and then ask some silly questions, eg. Do I have purple hair? And have them answered by the Magic 8 ball.
  • Guess what’s in the bag? Generate and then ask questions to guess what is in the bag, or make it high-tech when combined with the iPad BAG game.
  • Conversation starters, eg. What did you do on the weekend? What’s news?, etc.
  • Interview people – Surveys and Opinion Polls, eg. What car do you drive? What do you know about floods? What did you eat for dinner when you were growing up? etc.
  • Favourite things Quiz, eg. What is your favourite football team? What is your favourite colour? etc.
  • Questions to ask peers/teachers after they have told news


  • Introducing themselves to new people
  • Plan vocab for what you will see/do
  • Write messages and take photos to make a book in Book Creator.

Choice making

  • Websites (Then websites could be easily opened with QR codes)
  • Youtube videos
  • Apps to play
  • Colours for games, art, etc.
  • Songs, music and CDs
  • Books and stories
  • Toys and games
  • And a million other things students could make choices about! Remember to model and provide other vocabulary (commenting, questioning, protesting, etc.) when helping students to make choices.

Music /Singing

  • Instruments
  • Songs/Artists
  • Control music – e.g. turn up/down; skip; repeat etc.
  • Puppet Pals Concert – students choose WHO is in the concert, WHERE the concert is to be held and WHAT to sing, then create it in Puppet Pals. Here’s me singing Katy Perry ROAR in the library…..

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  • More choices in songs – eg. What animal next in Old MacDonald’s farm; What action next in If You’re Happy and You Know it; etc.
  • Song innovations – change the words to your favourite songs, eg. I use the tune “Farmer in the Dell”, when I sing “The monkey eats the biscuit… yum, yummy, yummy, yum.. The monkey eats the biscuit”. Students can choose different animals and food to engage in this activity.

Language and Sentence Building

  • Modeling little words in sentences, to describe pictures in books or picture cards, eg. The dog is under the chair
  • Can also target language concepts such as: Prepositions; size; colour; verbs.
  • Sorting and categorizing activities – Animal homes: where do they live?; Transport sort: sea, sky or road?; Colour matching; Food sort: Fridge or Cupboard, Lunch or Dinner, Healthy or Unhealthy, etc.
  • Describing guessing games – Students describe items (give clues) for others to guess, eg. “It’s an animal; lives on the farm; says ‘oink oink'”


  • Choices within cooking, eg. Smoothies – Chocolate or Banana
  • Writing and preparing the shopping list for ingredients needed
  • Ingredients and Equipment
  • Steps in the Recipe
  • Write messages and take photos to create Recipe Books in Book Creator

Give directions

  • There are lots of great CREATION apps for the iPad, where students can design and decorate things. Here are a few of my favourites: Party face, Toca Hair, Toca Kitchen Monsters, Cookie Doodle, Bamba Ice-cream, etc.
  • As a communication activity: one student can give the directions for the teacher or another student to follow, eg. Play Toca Kitchen Monsters: “Feed the blue monster”; “get a carrot”; “chop the carrot”; “give the carrot to the monster now”, etc.


  • Program repeated lines and vocabulary onto AAC systems
  • Text innovations/ rewriting parts of the book – use the book language structure but introduce new vocabulary. Text innovations are great to make into books using Book Creator.
  • Retell story, and discuss main ideas
  • Asking questions after book reading


  • Alphabet words banks to match the letter of the week you are working on
  • Sight words – word to word matching, picture to word matching, or word to picture matching.
  • Use AAC tools alongside great apps like Word Wizard, Firstwords Deluxe, Alpha Writer.


  • Alliteration
  • List poems with adjectives and descriptive words
  • Acrostic name poems

Writing tasks

  • “I Like __” – students write sentences and take photos of favourite things and publish a book in Book Creator
  • Cards and letters to important people, eg. For birthdays. Students can write the message, as well as communicate about the design and making of the card
  • Take some fun photos and have the class/student write captions – what could they be saying or thinking? Use the app Strip Designer to publish
  • Adjective stories and lists – Brainstorm ideas onto Popplet (app or website)
  • Create a character using the Toca Tailor App and then take photos of the character around the school. Write sentences to match the photos, eg. “Bob went to the library”; “Bob is under the tree”
  • Make a picture book for a younger class in the school
  • Use AAC tools alongside great writing apps like: Clicker Sentences, Clicker Connect and Clicker Docs


Apps mentioned in this blog post:

Check out my pinterest board with some examples of some of these AAC activities:


Important links and websites:

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About Amanda Hartmann

Amanda is a Speech Pathologist with over 17 years experience. She has worked within educational settings, as an Inclusive Technology Consultant with Spectronics www.spectronics.com.au , and currently focuses her time on her busy private practice.

Amanda is a Key Word Sign/Makaton Presenter, an official Proloquo2Go trainer www.assistiveware.com/amanda-hartmann and an official expert TBoxApps Trainer for Therapy Box. She is also a certified Apple Trainer and regularly runs iPad workshops to help schools integrate iPad technology into the classroom, for all learners.

Amanda has a special interest in supporting and developing communication, literacy and learning for a wide range of diverse learners, often through the use of visual tools, sign language and technology. She has spent many years providing therapy support and teacher/parent training in Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) for students with complex communication needs, due to disabilities such as: Cerebral palsy and other Physical impairments, Visual impairment, Hearing impairment, Autism, Down Syndrome, Fragile X, Intellectual Impairment, Angelman Syndrome, Rett Syndrome and others. She also has specialist knowledge to support the literacy learning of students with learning difficulties, language impairments and other diverse learning needs. She is passionate about providing interactive and engaging presentations to educators, parents and therapists.

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