Frayer Model

Paul Main

Using a Frayer model to develop comprehension and vocabulary.

What is the Frayer Model?

A Frayer Model is a particular type of graphic organizer that enables pupils to, determine or clarify the meaning of unfamiliar vocabulary words viewed, heard, or read by the students. A Frayer Model is used before students read a text to give them the background knowledge; during reading to observe vocabulary, as well as, after reading a text, to allow students to evaluate vocabulary. This instructional strategy facilitates students’ acquisition process of new vocabulary and uses comprehensive resource materials by offering students a structure for independent word learning to understand dictionary definitions, examples, and characteristics. Students can engage in word-play activities and comprehensive word learning through repeated exposure to the word through meaningful context clues.

Who developed The Frayer Model?

The Frayer Model was created in 1969, by Dorothy Frayer and her co-workers at the Wisconsin Center for Education Research. Their main purpose was to fulfill students' academic vocabulary demands and to help students learn difficult vocabulary more effectively. Dorothy and her team created the Frayer Model to help students understand key vocabulary through explicit vocabulary instruction and comprehensive word analysis. If you are interested in using more graphical methods for teaching vocabulary and developing deeper understanding then you can explore the various organisers we have available in our repository. As well as providing a scaffold for students to learn with, they can also be used as a springboard towards clearer thinking and writing.

What are the main characteristics of the Frayer Model?

The Frayer Model includes a four-square chart that provides academic vocabulary knowledge, while clarifying, determining, and analyzing difficult vocabulary, word structure and meaning. The central oval has the chosen word written on it. In some cases, parts of speech can also be written in the central oval.

How can teachers use The Frayer Model to teach students?

English language teachers must take the following steps before providing explicit vocabulary instruction to students.

  • Collect materials that can make the topic as real and as visual as possible.
  • Choose instructional methods that help students to understand the core vocabulary in the text;
  • Do the concept analysis;
  • Identify the non-critical and critical characteristics.

Developing effective vocabulary instructions using the Frayer Model Template

  • Teachers need to analyze the concept or keyword they wish to introduce to the students. They will create a list of features that are vital to the explanation of the tricky vocabulary;
  • Teachers will present the concept to students and allow the pupils to give examples (they can use photographs or pictures for younger children);
  • Create a list of all of the robust vocabulary that the students mentioned on the board. At this stage, it is advisable not to write anything in the diagram of the model yet. Students must be encouraged to contribute to the list or to the debate over examples that have been written;
  • The teacher will ask the students what is common among all of the examples. Their responses will be written on a new list on the board (But, the model must remain empty at this step);

The students will read the list and then write more examples to the first list and highlight those that are not present in their reading;

  • The students will do the same with the second list; they will write more features and highlight those that are not present in their reading.
  • The teacher will introduce the powerful learning tool of the Frayer Model to the pupils and write the examples in the suitable sections (Non-examples and Examples). Students may need to carry out further research to find out if some of the examples are correct or incorrect.
  • The teacher will talk to students about each feature of the second list. If there is a feature that is found in all examples, it will be written in the section of Essential Characteristics. The feature which is found in a few examples and absent in others, it will be written in the column of Nonessential Characteristics (e.g., a particular size, colour, or gender). Students may carry out further research to find out if certain characteristics are nonessential or essential. Students may carry out this research individually or with a classmate.
  • Students will use the information in the model to write a passage (either individually or with partners) and describe the provided concept list. After writing the passage, they may share the details with their class-fellows to discuss the concept. After exchanging their ideas, students may write a new passage.

Frayer model template
Frayer model template


Examples of using The Frayer Model

While studying in a unit of study, a student may need to learn each vocabulary term in the list. Out of this robust vocabulary list, only a few words represent the key term. For instance, students may seek help in a science unit about rocks, the below tricky vocabulary words given in the Frayer Model for Science Vocabulary are mostly taught.

Example of frayer model in science
Example of frayer model in science


Even if primary school students learn the above vocabulary words from the vocabulary wall independently, they need to know the relationships between complex concepts that figure 2 illustrates and therefore, build a deeper understanding of the major academic concepts. In the entire list of vocabulary, three content vocabulary terms create the foundation for the whole unit: metamorphic rocks, sedimentary rocks, and igneous rocks. As these phrases are primary to any major understanding of the content in the chapter, instructors may have to spend extra time making sure that pupils understand them. In this case, it is helpful to use student-friendly definitions as well as a graphic organizer like the Frayer Model. If teachers use the instructional methods involving the Frayer Model appropriately, they might be able to add the elements of vocabulary teachings provided on previous pages (i.e. word selection, clearly contextualizing and defining the vocabulary term, helping pupils actively participate in the word processing, offering current understanding through several exposures to phrases).

Frayer model examples
Frayer model examples

What subjects lend themselves to the Frayer Model?

Education researchers believe that The Frayer Models provide effective vocabulary instruction tool that are not only effective for vocabulary development of each subject but each grade level too. Each subject has a key concept or common vocabulary unique to it that pupils need to know, and vocabulary is only the starting point. The regular layout of the Frayer Model cell is 4 cells with the titles of vocabulary on top.

At elementary level classrooms, the Frayer Models provide a powerful learning tool and effective graphic organizers that allow the vocabulary development and brainstorming of original ideas and essential characteristics related to specific topics. The four cells of the model offer a very targeted strategy for brainstorming, which is perfect for pupils who may need to focus or who are likely to get carried away. The Frayer Model is used before starting a project, for ideas brainstorming that will support research, or it may be used after completion of a project for retaining information collected all through the process.