Medicine Labels

Reading for Life Lessons
Minnesota ABE Supplemental Services, Linda Strand, 2004-2005
and the Minnesota Literacy Council



Reading Medicine Labels (Reading for Life volume 1, unit 3: Labels: Product and Medicine)


Learners will be able to read and interpret basic information on medicine labels

Key Vocabulary:

prescription, over-the-counter, refill, capsule, tablet, pill, drops, daily, dosage, directions, side effects, refrigerate, expiration, drowsiness

Topics to Review:

illnesses and symptoms, going to the doctor


A variety of over-the-counter and prescription medicine packages; photocopies of a prescription label

Procedure - Real-life application:

Show and talk about 3-4 over-the-counter medicines. T talks about the purpose of the product, how much to take, how often to take it and possible side effects. Use this opportunity to highlight the new vocabulary words. Students fill in chart with information and put vocabulary in their notebooks. Then T asks students questions about the different medicines. Students answer using their charts.

T distributes medicine packages to learners. T asks learners to look for the purpose of the product. T asks learners to look for dosage or directions. T asks learners to look for side effects.

Prescription meds: T shows the prescription medication bottle. T asks students: “What is this?” T elicits or teaches prescription. T points out the label and distributes photocopies of it. T and students together find who prescribed the medicine, who the medicine is for, the prescription number, dosage, refill information and cautions. Then T asks questions about the information. Student point to where the information is on the label when they give their answers. Repeat with other medicines.

Vocabulary scavenger hunt: Students look for and circle vocabulary words on medicine labels or photocopies of them.

Progress to Reading for Life, v.1 competency worksheets:

Applicable worksheets: RFL v.1, pages 50, 51, 52 and 53. Choose from worksheets listed according to your learners’ needs. Please see your copy of Reading for Life for additional worksheets and units.

Progress to multiple-choice format activities:


  • See Daily Living Activities on page 49 of Reading for Life v. 1.
  • For online activities, as well as printable ones, related to medical literacy, visit Charles LaRue’s site: The lessons include “Prescription Labels,” “Over-the-counter Labels,” “Special Warning Labels” and “Side Effects”.
  • Project SHINE-MetLife Foundation Health Literacy Initiative created ESL health literacy lessons for tutors and teachers.  These include units on taking medications for high beginning and intermediate level learners.  Visit their site at: