Gaining technical literacy by using a range of strategies to grow vocabulary

Part 1: Lesson Description

Lesson Title

Gaining technical literacy by using a range of strategies to grow vocabulary


The intended audience includes adult learners (Grade Level D) seeking basic reading skill development. Learners will imagine that they are entering a new field of employment. They are given written information that contain new terminology specific to their occupation. Using a range of strategies, learners will determine or clarify the meaning of specific words as they are used in a specific technical context. This lesson will help learners to gain vocabulary related to an occupation of interest in order to build knowledge to prepare for a career.

Learner Audience / Primary Users



Educational Use

  • Curriculum / Instruction
  • Assessment



Material Type

  • Instructional Material


  • Designers for Learning
  • Adult Education
  • Literacy
  • Vocabulary
  • Technical
  • Occupation
  • Employment
  • RST.3.4

Time Required for Lesson

60 minutes

Targeted Skills

Key skills covered in this lesson include:

  • Employability

Learning Objectives

By the end of this lesson, the learner should be able to:

  • Define 5 key technical terms by using reference materials, context clues, or inference strategies while reading text related to job interest.
  • Communicate effectively by creating an original sentence using a new term appropriately.

College & Career Readiness Standards (CCRS) Alignment

  • Level: Adult Education
  • Grade Level: D
  • Subject:  English Language Arts / Literacy
  • Strand: Reading
  • Sub-strand: Reading of Scientific and Technical text
  • Standard Description: CCR Anchor 4:  Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.
  • Determine the meaning of general academic and domain specific words and phrases in a text relevant to a topic or subject area. (RST.3.4)

Prior Knowledge

[Type prior knowledge summary here.]

Required Resources

Internet access or print reference materials (e.g., dictionaries, glossaries, thesauruses)

Links to online resources:

Links to online job descriptions (or print out if no internet access) provided below.

Print out one for copy for instructor:

Sample story for introduction:

Download: Sample Story for Introduction_eOn93E7.pdf

Print out for learners:

Informational Text for presentation and guided practice: Dealt a Devastating Hand -- one copy per learner:

Download: Dealt a Devistating Hand_9YcvTw1.pdf

Strategies to Determine Word Meaning Worksheet -- several copies per learner:

Download: Strategies to Determine Word Meaning.pdf

Assessment: Dealt a Devastating Hand, Questions:

Download: Dealth a Devistating Hand Questions_5RwdqR4.pdf

Lesson Author & License

  • Lesson Author: PJ Wright

Part 2: Lesson

Instructional Strategies and Activities


Time: 3 minutes

Learners are asked to brainstorm about prior experiences they faced when unfamiliar technical vocabulary was used. Record examples given, including the context where these words came up (doctor’s appointment, job interview, meeting with child’s teacher, etc.). Record any techniques that they have used to figure out the meaning of the words. If learners were not able to comprehend some words, record how did not knowing what these terms meant affected the outcome of this experience (negative/neutral outcome, feelings, impact on others, etc.).


Time: 3 minutes

Through storytelling, share an encounter (or use the sample story provided) when you tried to learn about a new subject that involved unfamiliar technical jargon. The story should explain the context where new terminology presented itself and discuss with the class some strategies used to determine the meaning of the new terms. If possible relay a positive impact of being able to gain new vocabulary (being able build credibility, being able to achieve a goal, etc…). Invite learners to expound on the benefits tied to being able to gain new technical vocabulary, especially as it relates to the learners’ lives.

By the end of this lesson, the learner should be able to:

  • Define 5 key technical terms by using reference materials, context clues, or inference strategies while reading text related to job interest.
  • Communicate effectively by creating an original sentence using a new term appropriately.

Presentation / Modeling / Demonstration

Time: 10 minutes

In this lesson, you will demonstrate a range of strategies to determine or clarify the meaning of the word inflammation taking time to demonstrate each step. Ask the class if anyone can define the word “inflammation”. Record any definitions provided by the class on the flipchart or chalkboard.

Hand out a copy of Dealt a Devastating Hand. Review the first paragraph, highlighting the word “inflammation”. Use context. Look for clues in the text that hint to the meaning of the word. Discuss any ideas that come to mind after considering the context of the article. The sentence may contain words that define or describe the term. Record any insights gained during this discussion. For instance, the following phrases from the passage provide context: “extreme pain”, “red and swollen” and “war was taking place inside her joints”.

Consult reference materials (e.g., dictionaries, glossaries, thesauruses), either print or digital. Demonstrate looking up the term and share the meaning(s) of the word. Write the definition out on the flipchart or chalkboard.

Re-read the sentence, substituting the new definition in place of the unfamiliar word. Then create an original sentence using this word. For example, “When she twisted her ankle, her foot looked like a cake rising in the oven, signalling that inflammation was taking place”.

Guided Practice

Time: 19 minutes

Divide students up into pairs or small groups depending on class size. Hand out four copies of the blank Strategies to Determine Word Meaning Worksheet to each group of students. Assign all student to finish reading Dealt a Devastating Hand independently. Then ask each group to work together using the strategies covered during the demonstration to determine the meaning of each bolded word. Have each group fill out one worksheet per term to record their guesses, insights and definitions for all bolded words. Circulate around the room and support their efforts as needed. Ask each group to be prepared to report out their work when time is up. Debrief by allowing groups to share one unfamiliar term and their team’s completed worksheet answers with the class.


Time: 5 minutes

Assessment will be instructor observation with the following criteria:

  • Learner will answer questions about the text assigned.

Hand out Dealt a Devastating Hand, Questions to each learner. Learners should work independently to answer the questions. This assessment will test vocabulary in context from informational text.

Answers for Dealt a Devastating Hand, Questions: 1. A, 2. D, 3. C, 4. C, 5. B.


Time: 20 minutes

The learners are to imagine that they have identified a new occupation that they wish to explore or a job ad that interests them. Begin a discussion about how new technical jargon might present itself and how they might use the strategies learned in this lesson to gain new vocabulary that might help them in their job search or job interview preparation.

Have each student select text from a range of job ads and/or articles about specific occupations which contain technical terms. They may find these independently (if internet access is available) or they may select from printed copies of the following job descriptions:

Construction Inspector:

Fleet Maintenance Technician:

Graphic Designer:

HVAC Technician:

Web Developer:

Assign each student to review their text independently with the aim of gaining new technical vocabulary. Learners should fill out the Strategies to Determine Word Meaning Worksheet for at least five new terms.

Extension of Application (optional): This activity can be extended over time. For instance, you could assign a new job description each week in order to expose the learners to more career options. After going through this exercise in class, learners will become more capable of using the strategies independently. Repetition of the strategies would aid in long term adoption of these techniques and help to grow technical vocabulary. They could be assigned to read and fill out the Strategies to Determine Word Meaning Worksheet as homework. It would be useful to ask them to keep a running list of new terms identified in order to give a visual representation of their growing vocabulary. They could be encouraged to report out about new fields of occupation, to translate reading comprehension into speaking ability that would be relevant during interviews, networking and speaking in general.

Key Terms and Concepts


Reference materials

Technical literacy

Part 3: Supplementary Resources & References

Supplementary Resources

10 Sure-Fire Strategies to Improve Your Vocabulary:


[Type your reference list here.]

Attribution Statements

Content created by PORT OF SAN DIEGO for PUBLIC WEBSITE,
originally published at under a Creative Commons 3.0  license.

CC Attribution

This course content is offered by Designers for Learning under a CC Attribution license.
Content in this course can be considered under this license unless otherwise noted.        

(Design Guide effective September 12, 2016)

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