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TV411: Reading Medicine Labels


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Activity Description

Reading Medicine Labels: bottle with a magnifying glass over the instructions
Source: TV411: Reading Medicine Labels (License: Protected by Copyright (c) [i.e. screenshot])

This activity includes a video, printable worksheet, and online Web lesson on reading medicine labels.

TV411's mission is to help adults gain the basic reading, writing, math, and science skills they need to achieve their educational, career, and personal goals. They create educationally sound and entertaining multimedia learning materials and distribute them through television, the Internet, and literacy and community-based programs across the country. TV411 is a project of the Learning and Teaching Division of the Education Development Center, a non-profit organization that addresses challenges in education, health and economic development.


  1. Make sure that the site is not blocked at your school before using it with students.
  2. Do the activity yourself in order to anticipate students' questions and difficulties.
  3. Make sure that the quiz works on the computer(s) you or your students will use to ensure that necessary plug-ins are installed.
  4. There is a video (on Vimeo) and a printed handout titled Follow the Doctor's Orders. Review these materials to see if you like them. If so, download, print and copy the worksheet for each student. If you plan to use the video, be sure it is available at your school as many schools block Vimeo.
  5. Make sure students are familiar with symptoms and illnesses vocabulary and preteach if necessary.
  6. Introduce vocabulary and concepts related to the topic of medicine labels.


  1. Ask how many students have visited the drugstore to buy medicine for themselves or someone else. Activate background knowledge and promote interest in the topic by asking the students to identify the symptoms they were trying to relieve (cough, runny nose, headache, etc.). Write these on the board or type into a Word document projected in the front of class.
  2. Introduce the topic: reading medicine labels.
  3. Show the video (if it is possible at your school). If not, cover the material contained in the video with your students.
  4. Lead a brief discussion about the content of the video.
  5. Distribute the worksheet Follow the Doctor's Orders and review the parts of a prescription label.
  6. Have students answer the questions on the handout.
  7. Review the answers as a class.
  8. Direct students to the online lesson (Example Web Site) above. Explain how to navigate through the activity, demonstrating from your computer (if connected to a projector).
  9. Have them read the information and answer the questions. They should select Submit Answer after each question to get feedback on their selection.

Teacher Tips

  • Students should have basic computer and Web site navigation skills before engaging in this activity.
  • Avoid any advertisements on the page. Teach students to do likewise.

More Ways

  • This site has so many more options for activities. Consider their other Language Arts new window and Math & Science new window activities including videos, Web lessons, and print downloads for use in your classroom's curriculum. Use the drop-down menu to browse the full catalog of materials by the skill they address.

Program Areas

  • ESL: English as a Second Language
  • ABE: Adult Basic Education
  • AwD: Adults with Disabilities


  • Beginning High
  • Intermediate Low
  • Intermediate High
  • Low
  • Intermediate
  • High

Lesson Plan


Ask how many students have visited the drugstore to buy medicine for themselves or someone else. Activate background knowledge and promote interest in the topic by asking the students to turn to their partner and identify the symptoms they were trying to relieve (cough, runny nose, headache, etc.). Gather back as a whole group and write these on the board or type into a Word document projected in the front of class


Discuss Medicine Labels. Students turn to their partner to discuss first then join with the whole group.

Possible questions: Where do we find them? What type of information is on the labels? Do you find them tricky to read? Where can you go for help if you do not understand what the label says?


Watch the video, Medicine Labels. In pairs, students discuss the father, Jaime, shopping for medicines for his 8 year old son, Luis, who is sick with a an earache and cold.

  • What advice does Laverne (the store employee) give to him?
  • What advice does the pharmacist give him?

At the end of the video there are three bullet points to remember:

  • read all warning labels
  • check the active ingredients so you dobn't double dose
  • measure with a measuring spoon or dosage cup

In pairs, students discuss the information. As a class summarize what Jaime learned.


You can have students work in pairs for the first time or do the activities twice and have them work independently the second time.
Directions: Select the button BEGIN LESSON found at the bottom of the lesson page for Reading Medicine Labels, There are three activites to practice reading labels.Follow the Directions and move through each activity. Students can submit their answers to see if they are correct. Explanations are given with incorrect answers.

Students can use the dictionary button to look up words at Dictionary.comor the calculator button.


Hand out the worksheet, How to Follow the Doctor's Orders Activity Sheet

Students work in pairs answering the questions on the worksheet:

  1. What's the name of the medicine?
  2. What are the directions for taking it?
  3. What's the phone number of the pharmacy?
  4. What's the prescription number?
  5. If you start feeling better, can you stop taking this medicine?

Have pairs ask each other more questions generated by the label information.  They might include:

  1. What is the doctor's name? (Dr. Mary Smith)
  2. Why might you need the prescription number? (to reorder)
  3. What should you do after the expiration date? (discard the medicine)
  4. How many refills can you get?
Engagement Enhancement Extension

Students bring a medicine label from home. Students share the labels with their partner. Students present their labels and how to read them to the class.

Evaluate student presentations, and their understanding of medicine labels.


In the coming week students take pictures of medicine labels at the store. Students create questions for other students about their labels.


  • Health
    • Understand basic health and medical information
    • Understand basic safety measures and health risks
    • Understand how to select and use medications
  • Math
    • Whole Number Skills
  • Reading
    • Health


  • Reading
    • CCR Anchor 1 - Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.
  • Speaking and Listening
    • CCR Anchor 1 - Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
  • Language
    • CCR Anchor 1 - Demonstrate command of the conventions of English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.
    • CCR Anchor 6 - Acquire and use accurately a range of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when encountering a word or phrase important to comprehension or expression.


dosage, drug label, drugs, EL Civics, medicine, medicine label, medicine labels, OTC, prescription, prescription drug, reading medicine labels, TV 411, TV411

Creative Commons License

CC BY-NC-SA:This license allows reusers to distribute, remix, adapt, and build upon the material in any medium or format for noncommercial purposes only, and only so long as attribution is given to the creator. If you remix, adapt, or build upon the material, you must license the modified material under identical terms.
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OTAN activities are funded by contract CN220124 from the Adult Education Office, in the Career & College Transition Division, California Department of Education, with funds provided through Federal P.L., 105-220, Section 223. However, OTAN content does not necessarily reflect the position of that department or the U.S. Department of Education.