Job Corps Academic Standards Implementation Handbook

Job Corps Academic Standards Implementation Handbook

Chapter 6: Vocabulary Instruction


In Job Corps, subject mastery is inextricably tied to understanding the technical language of the subject and being able to refine, manipulate and apply that language.[1] This technical language for industry is often called “trade vocabulary,” and it is the single most important type of instruction in Job Corps.

A trade vocabulary is made up of all the words needed to understand and function in a given profession. This is a lot of vocabulary! In fact, there are more vocabulary words and terms to learn in the typical Automotive Technician TAR than students learn in a year of high school Spanish.

Mastering the trade vocabulary is simply essential. This is the reason every TAR now includes a TAR section called “Industry Vocabulary” containing one item: Define and use technical words and phrases relevant to [TAR name].This is the reason there is a separate academic standard for trade vocabulary (English/Language Arts 1.4: Defines vocabulary common to the industry.) In fact, mastering the trade terminology is so important that this entire chapter is focused on how to teach this vocabulary most successfully.

Consider this: For full comprehension, students need to be familiar with 90% of the words in a text, video, or oral presentation. If their comprehension is less than 90%, frustration and “tuning out” almost inevitably follow.[2] Mastery of the vocabulary standard is a key to success in the technical classroom or shop, as well as in academics. And it is key to student success after Job Corps, as students gain employment, pass certification tests, and move up the career ladder.

Clearly, the vocabulary of the trade must be taught. This chapter focuses on teaching vocabulary effectively, efficiently and creatively to keep students focused and interested.

Selecting the Vocabulary Terms to Teach

At first glance, selection of which vocabulary terms to teach may appear simple. The teacher should simply teach the vocabulary that students need to demonstrate mastery of TAR items and pass certification tests. In practice, however, selection is more complex. There are thousands of terms that are used in the vocational areas of any industry, and not all can be taught. Job Corps instructors have always made decisions about the specific words to teach. Moving forward, these choices should be made consciously and in the most productive way possible.

Below are steps to take to select the most important terms to teach.

Step 1: Create a list of key terms. This list will include the academic and career success terms needed in the industry, as well as the technical vocabulary that relates directly to TAR line items.

Step 1.A. Technical Terms. When reviewing the list of TAR line items students must master in a given TAR section, first list the important terms or words that specify the key concepts, processes, and procedures. For example, below are the items from Section B, Internet Protocol Routing, of the Information Technology/Computer Networking TAR for Routing, Switching, and Networking. The words, terms, and acronyms that are bolded below probably represent the important vocabulary in this duty section:

  1. Define IP routing and related terms and concepts (e.g., static route, connected routes, directly connected subnets, Variable Length Subnet Masking (VLSM), route summarization, and discontiguous classful networks).
  2. Describe the difference between manual route summarization and autosummarization.
  3. Define Access Control Lists or ACLs and related terms and concepts (e.g., telnet, secure shell or SSH, Reflexive Access Lists, Dynamic ACLs, and Time-Based ACLs).
  4. Describe the difference between standard and extended IP Access Control Lists.
  5. Identify ping and traceroute Commands.
  6. Describe the packet forwarding process.
  7. Calculate and apply a VLSM IP addressing design to a network.
  8. Determine the appropriate classless addressing scheme using VLSM and summarization to satisfy addressing requirements in a LAN/WAN environment.
  9. Describe the technological requirements for running IPv6 (e.g., protocols, dual stack, tunneling).
  10. Describe IPv6 addresses.
  11. Identify and correct common problems associated with IP addressing and host configurations.

For anyone not well-versed in IT, this list barely sounds like English! Our students feel the same about the trade vocabulary in our TARs! All industries have their own “foreign language.” This foreign language proves the need to work extensively on industry vocabulary.

Once the terms stated in the TAR items have been identified, the teacher must look one step further to the vocabulary words not explicitly written in the TAR but required for response to the task described. For example, in the Hospitality, Advanced Culinary TAR, the student is required to “Describe the method to prepare yeast breads.” The teacher might identify the word yeast from this task description. But to complete the task, the student will need to know a number of other terms not printed in the TAR, such as gluten, proof, and knead. These are also clearly key words for understanding.

Additionally, the course instructional materials, including the textbook, if any, and the teacher’ presentation notes may be sources for important terms. Because these are a serious source of course information, students must understand at least 90% of the vocabulary in these materials to ensure comprehension of the content.

And finally, the teacher must review state, national, or industry certification exam study guides to ensure that all the trade vocabulary that may appear on these tests has been included. The terms in the certification tests are probably the most important trade vocabulary to include.

Step 1.B. Math and Science Terms. Career technical and academic instructors must work together to identify math operations and science concepts required to complete TAR line items. For example, in the basic Hospitality/Culinary Arts TAR, Sections B, C, and D, students must master the following math and science-related requirements. The key terms are shown in bold:

  • Identify whole numbers, decimals and fractions.
  • Identify ratios and describe how they relate to fractions.
  • Identify formulas used in baking.
  • Convert volume and weight measures.
  • Convert U.S. and metric measurement systems.
  • Demonstrate recipe conversion.
  • Identify, use, clean, and sanitize cutting tool.

Additionally, there are the terms within the bolded words that must be mastered, as seen earlier, such as milliliter, liter, gram, kilogram, etc. within “metric measurement systems.” But in addition to the science/math terminology in the TAR, the following types of words must also be added to the vocabulary list. Words that:

  • Have different meanings in other settings (e.g., odd, even, radical, obtuse, rational);
  • Have the same definition, but use a different term (e.g., the bore of a piston is the same as the diameter of a circle; the stroke of a piston is also the height of a circle; piston displacement is the same as volume); and
  • Signal the use of an arithmetic operation (of means multiply, more than or increased by means add, decreased by means subtract).

Step 1.C. Career Success Standards Terms. Finally, the teacher should review the Career Success Standards to identify difficult terms related to behaviors required to complete technical tasks. For example, most industries require workers to follow directions and accept feedback. This means that students must be able to ask for clarificationand show resiliencewhen receiving both positive and negative feedback. Clarificationand resilience are terms from the Career Success Standards that the teacher should teach, use, and model so students understand the required behavior.

Step 2: Classify each word on the list into one of three groups: a) must know, b) should know, and c) nice to know. Classifying words is a judgment call, but the teacher must be strongly influenced by the certification exam terminology content, as this is the final test in the real world for the effectiveness of instruction.

Step 2.A. Must-Know Terms.Must-knowterms reflect the trade’s critical concepts and procedures and must be included in the vocabulary list, even if they are not specifically stated in the TAR. For example, the concept of biohazard and procedures such as isolation are critical to students’ understanding of health care TARs.

Some instructors feel that all the trade vocabulary in their TAR items are must-know terms, but this may not be true for some words or phrases in your industry TAR. Because the TARs were written by experts in each industry area, the importance of each term included is not equal across the TARs.

Step 2.B.Should-know terms are more factual in nature and may be used to explain critical concepts and procedures. For example, many heath occupations require knowledge of procedural and diagnostic coding. Like must-know terms, your direct instruction or peer assisted instruction is best for teaching these target words. Another way to look at should-know terms is that most of the students in your course should master this vocabulary, but not every student absolutely must know the terms to be successful in your industry.

Should-know terms may be found in the TAR items in parentheses used to include examples. They may also come from textbooks or other material where you could define them to increase student comprehension.

Step 2.C.Nice-to-know terms are not critical to concept or procedure development, and students will not need to demonstrate mastery of this trade vocabulary to complete the TAR or earn certification. Students who have mastered the critical items and have time for more advanced work are good candidates fornice-to-knowterms.

Some of your students will become particularly interested in a specialty area of your TAR, and you can offer individual learning opportunities for them that will include the nice-to-know terms. For example, if a student in Renewable Resources and Energy, Ornamental Horticulture decided to become a fern specialist, she/he would need to know terms like fronds,sphagnum moss, and scale.

Step 3:Organize your terms into major instructional areas in the sequence you teach them in the course. Keep them in separate areas for “must,” “should,” and “nice,” as in the sample from the Health, Licensed Vocational Nurse TAR below.

Schedule / Instructional Area / Category / Terms for this Area
July 21-22 / Urinary procedures / Must / irrigation
Should / foley catheter
straight catheterization
sterile urine sample
bladder irrigation
interstitial cystitis
Nice / cystoscopy

Step 4: Determine who will teach the trade vocabulary.“Who will teach the trade vocabulary?” is really not a dumb question. In several Job Corps centers, the academic and career technical teachers have teamed up to teach vocabulary, and the results have been truly impressive.

At these centers, the academic teacher “pre-teaches” the trade vocabulary terms before the technical teacher begins to teach and use them. This way, every term is taught twice, and, of course, practiced many more times. And students hear it from two different teachers with two different styles and two different content concerns.

In this chapter, you’ll see this idea of team-teaching the trade vocabulary played out between an academic and Career Technical Training instructor. This format naturally requires the two of you to collaborate to make it work. In appendix C, there are some tips on collaboration you might want to check out.

If you aren’t lucky enough to have a collaborative potential with an academic teacher, don’t worry. Just use your split personality to play the part of both teachers yourself. Seriously, you can certainly play the role of both teachers; it’s not hard. But you have another option of using peer-assisted instruction that provides more variety for the students and uses that famous peer power. For example, in the TAR for Retail Sales and Services, Child Development, you might ask each of three students to research and, just like you would, teach one of the following terms: family day care, center-based infant-toddler care, and center-based preschool.

Step 5: Figure out when to teach the must-know terms.This will vary from one task area to the next and from one stage of understanding, such as the introduction to the content, to another, such as advanced application.

Unfortunately, we don’t have a lot of guidance from the research as to how many terms are optimal to teach in a given time period, because most of that work has been done in academic classrooms. For example, one study used 12 vocabulary words a week selected from student reading passages[3], and that would hardly meet the needs of most technical instructors. On the other hand, we do know that foreign language immersion programs for adults would consider 50 words a day somewhat minimal.

To determine how many you want to teach in a day or week, you should figure that it takes about 5 minutes to do the initial teaching of a word using the method described later in this chapter. Let’s say that the academic teacher has 30 minutes/day that he can devote to vocabulary instruction; that means he could do 6 words a day—or 30 words a week. If the technical teacher needs to cover more than that, she and the academic teacher determine the 30 words they will co-teach and the other words that the technical teacher would handle on her own.

The other aspect of the “when-to-teach” question is the timing of the vocabulary instruction. For knowledge items, such as “Define safe work procedures to use around electrical hazards,” terminology instruction is almost always simultaneous with content instruction. However, vocabulary instruction in relation to skill mastery is another matter.

You may wish to teach the vocabulary before you provide the skill content instruction. For example, the academic teacher might provide the vocabulary instruction for an upcoming unit in the week before the career technical training instructor begins teaching that skill. The advantages of this approach are that

  • the skills instruction flows smoothly from step to step without having to pause to define key terms;
  • students know what the words mean before content instruction begins, so they’re able to concentrate fully on the steps involved in the skill itself; and
  • you can increase the number of repetitions of the trade vocabulary words, as you are essentially teaching and then reviewing in context.

The primary disadvantage is that the initial vocabulary instruction is out-of-context, so that students are learning the meaning of words that they may not yet have a frame of reference for.


A second option is to teach the vocabulary during the content instruction. This may have been the way you handled trade terms in the past, as there is a tremendous advantage to learning the names of items and operations in their actual context of use. However, you do risk breaking the flow of the information, particularly if you do the full vocabulary instruction at this point.

Finally, you might choose to teach trade vocabulary after the basic skill instruction. While this sounds weird, it just recognizes that some instructors find that exact terminology can get in the way of teaching a basic skill in the initial stage. For example, you might demonstrate how to true up a door jamb using a bar level without naming the tool or explaining how it works. After students can use the level correctly, you introduce the correct term and complete the vocabulary instruction.

How to Teach Selected Vocabulary Terms

Now that you’ve identified the trade vocabulary terms students need to know for success in the industry, let’s look at what the research says about getting the biggest return on our instructional buck, that is, what works best in vocabulary instruction.

In this guide, we’ve blended a variety of approaches to vocabulary instruction based on the findings of leading researchers in the areas of background knowledge development, adult literacy, and literacy for students with learning disabilities. These researchers found that:

•Using a new term correctly (ELA 1.4) takes multiple exposures to the word over time in a variety of contexts;

•Understanding the morphology—Greek/Latin roots, suffixes, prefixes (ELA 1.10)—helps students significantly in recognition, retention, and correct use, as well as figuring out new words. Some TAR’s actually require this kind of knowledge. For example, Section A in several of the Health Care TAR’s, including Clinical Medical Assistant, Dental Assistant, Medical Administration, and Nurse Assistant/Home Health Aide, requires that students.

  • Demonstrate knowledge of basic word structure of medical terms; and
  • Demonstrate knowledge of the following in medical terminology: Prefixes, Suffixes, Abbreviations, and Signs and symbols.

•Asking students to describe terms in their own words, in drawings, in song, or in wordless actions (not just copy words from a dictionary) creates a lasting mental picture and understanding of the word;