What Is Frayer Model?

14 views 1:09 am 0 Comments June 5, 2024

In today’s post, I am covering a very important strategy in teaching vocabulary—the Frayer Model. This graphic organizer has transformed the way educators introduce and explore new words across various subjects and grade levels. More specifically, I delve into the definition of the Frayer Model, outline effective implementation strategies, highlight its numerous benefits, and conclude with practical examples. Whether you’re a seasoned educator or new to teaching, understanding how to leverage this tool can significantly enhance your instructional approach and improve student outcomes in vocabulary development.

What is the Frayer Model?

Frayer model is “an instructional strategy that utilizes a graphic organizer to teach vocabulary” (Dazzeo & Rao, 2020, p. 35). Originally developed by Dorothy Frayer and her colleagues in 1969, this model, as Westby (2024) stated, is versatile, supporting vocabulary learning before reading (to activate prior knowledge), during reading (to monitor reading), and after students engage with a text (to assess comprehension). In this way, Frayer model prepares students with the necessary background knowledge, aids them in recognizing vocabulary usage within context during reading, and allows them to evaluate their understanding post-reading.

Frayer Model features a four-square chart with a central circle where the vocabulary word is placed. Each square surrounding the word is designated for specific content such as the definition, characteristics (distinguishing between essential and non-essential), applications, and visuals like images or drawings (Westby, 2024) .

Additional details such as examples, non-examples, usage in sentences, facts, synonyms, and antonyms can also be included depending on the focus of the lesson. This layout facilitates a comprehensive analysis and clarification of complex words, enhancing students’ vocabulary skills effectively.

Strategies for Effectively Using the Frayer Model in Teaching

Here are some practical tips on how to effectively use the Frayer Model in the classroom, drawing on strategies recommended by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction:

  1. Word Selection: Choose vocabulary words from a specific text passage. This helps ensure the words are relevant and contextualized, aiding deeper understanding.
  2. Clarify Purpose: Clearly define why you are using the Frayer Model. Is it to activate prior knowledge, aid comprehension while reading, or assess understanding after reading?
  3. Model the Process: Demonstrate how to use the Frayer Model. Use a think-aloud technique to show students how you analyze a word:
    • Write the selected word in the center.
    • Describe the characteristics of the word, helping students understand its nuances.
    • List examples and non-examples to clarify what the word is and isn’t, enhancing distinction.
    • Draft a definition in your own words, encouraging students to think beyond textbook definitions.
  1. Scaffold Learning: Provide support as needed during each step of the Frayer Model. This might include guiding students on how to identify characteristics or examples, or assisting them in crafting their own definitions.
  2. Verification: After students complete their part of the model, have them compare their definitions with dictionary definitions. This helps validate their understanding and correct any misconceptions.
  3. Encourage Independent Practice: Once students are familiar with the process, encourage them to use the Frayer Model independently. This can be done in various settings: individually, in pairs, or in small groups.
  4. Monitor Progress: Use methods like teacher observation, conferencing, and student journaling to assess and monitor progress. Employing the Frayer Model as a formative assessment tool can provide insights into students’ vocabulary development and conceptual understanding.
  5. Integration Across Lessons: Incorporate the Frayer Model not just in language classes but across different subjects to help students generalize the vocabulary learning strategy.

Key Benefits of the Frayer Model

The Frayer Model has been shown to be particularly valuable across various educational levels and subjects. Here are some of its key benefits

  1. Improves Comprehension and Retention:
    The Frayer Model encourages students to explore and understand words beyond their simple definitions by engaging them in a multifaceted analysis. This includes characteristics, examples, and visual representations, which aid in better retention and recall. Studies such as those by Dazzeo and Roe (2020) have documented its effectiveness in enhancing vocabulary acquisition and retention, particularly when integrated with graphic organizers.
  2. Supports Diverse Learning Needs:
    This model has been identified as especially beneficial for students with learning disabilities. Research cited by authors like Bos and Anders (1990) and Wanjiru & O’Connor (2015) demonstrates that the visual and structured nature of the Frayer Model can help overcome challenges associated with traditional learning methods. It provides a clear framework that can be adjusted to meet various educational needs.
  3. Enhances Critical Thinking:
    By requiring students to categorize and differentiate between examples and non-examples, the Frayer Model fosters critical thinking skills. It pushes students to analyze how and why certain examples fit (or don’t fit) a particular vocabulary word, which is a higher-order thinking skill that is vital across all areas of education.
  4. Facilitates Active Learning:
    As noted by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, the Frayer Model involves students actively in the learning process. This active participation is crucial for engagement and effective learning. It makes the vocabulary learning process more dynamic and interactive, which can increase student motivation and interest.
  5. Adaptable Across Disciplines:
    This model’s versatility makes it applicable in numerous subject areas, not just language arts. It can be effectively used in science to define concepts like photosynthesis or in social studies to explore historical terms or social concepts, thereby supporting cross-curricular learning strategies.

Related: What Is Turn and Talk Strategy?

Frayer Model Examples

The example below illustrates how photosynthesis can be explored through the Frayer Model, enhancing understanding by distinguishing it from other biological processes and situating it within its ecological and scientific context.

Selected Word:



  • A biological process.
  • Occurs in plants, algae, and some bacteria.
  • Converts light energy into chemical energy.
  • Produces oxygen as a byproduct.


  • Green plants creating their own food using sunlight.
  • Algae contributing to oxygen production in aquatic environments.


  • Respiration (opposite process in living organisms).
  • Fermentation (anaerobic process in yeast and bacteria).
  • Decomposition (breakdown of organic matter).

Personal Definition:

Photosynthesis is the process by which green plants and some other organisms use sunlight to synthesize nutrients from carbon dioxide and water. It generally involves the green pigment chlorophyll and generates oxygen as a byproduct.

Dictionary Definition Check:

According to Cambridge dictionary, photosynthesis is “the process by which a plant uses carbon dioxide from the air, water from the ground, and the energy from the light of the sun to produce its own food and oxygen.”

Related: What is The Think Pair Share Strategy?

Final thoughts

In this post, I talked about the Frayer Model, providing a detailed definition, outlining practical implementation strategies, discussing its numerous benefits, and illustrating these points with examples. I hope you found this exploration insightful and that it inspires you to incorporate the Frayer Model into your teaching toolkit. By doing so, you can enhance vocabulary learning and comprehension in your classroom. Make sure to check the references for more in-depth information and further studies that underscore the effectiveness of this powerful educational strategy.


  • Dazzeo, R., & Rao, K. (2020). Digital Frayer Model: Supporting Vocabulary Acquisition With Technology and UDL. Teaching Exceptional Children, 53(1), 34–42. https://doi.org/10.1177/0040059920911951
  • Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, Frayer Model, retrieved from https://dpi.wi.gov/sites/default/files/imce/ela/bank/6-12_L.VAU_Frayer_Model.pdf
  • Westby, C. (2024). Frayer Model for Vocabulary Development. Word of Mouth, 35(3), 13-14. https://doi-org.ezproxy.msvu.ca/10.1177/10483950231211841d
  • Frayer, D., Frederick, W. C., & Klausmeier, H. J. (1969). A schema for testing the level of
    cognitive mastery. Wisconsin Center for Education Research.

Further readings

  • Beck, I.L., McKeown, M.G.,&Kucan, L. (2002). Bringing words to life: Robust vocabulary instruction. New York: Guilford.
  • Graves, M.F. (2006). The vocabulary book: Learning & instruction. New York: Teachers College Press; Newark, DE: International Reading Association.
  • Winters, R. (1991). Vocabulary anchors: Building conceptual connections with young readers. In Reading Teacher, 54(7), 659–662.

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