Frayer Models in the Classroom

By Natasha Lupiani

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What is a Frayer Model?

Frayer Model template - Classic Graphic Organizer storyboard

A Frayer Model is a specific type of graphic organizer. It was originally created in 1969, but with the widespread use of graphic organizers in the classroom, it is still widely used today. Most people are familiar with using this type of organizer for learning vocabulary words, but it can be used for more than that. The Frayer Model graphic organizer is versatile and can be used across various grades and subjects to help students to not only build on vocabulary words, but also to expand their knowledge of various concepts.

Frayer Models help you:

Breaking Down the Frayer Model

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The Frayer Model is organized so that four boxes or sections surround a general concept or vocabulary word in the center of the organizer. The four boxes surrounding it are labeled Definition, Characteristics, Examples and Non-Examples by default.


The “definition” section of the Frayer Model is self-explanatory. In this box the student defines the vocabulary word. If using the model for a concept, this would be where the student would briefly summarize or define the concept. This could vary slightly based on the topic of study.

The example model using Mammals as the vocabulary term not only defines it, but also incorporates visuals to demonstrate understanding of definition.


The “characteristic” portion of the model is a way to expand upon the definition. This is where students can write and show various characteristics for the word based on the definition. If using the Frayer Model for a concept, the students will demonstrate their knowledge of unique characteristics based on the specific concept.

In the “characteristic” section of the model, the definition of the term is built on to further demonstrate knowledge of the term Mammals.


This section is a great way for the students to demonstrate their understanding of the word or concept. To achieve this they can use words and visuals. The best approach is a multi-sensory approach and Storyboard That makes it easy.

Students should need little guidance in the "examples" section if they understand the definition and are able to recognize the characteristics.


Sometimes it can be helpful for learners to not only know what something is but also what it is not. Non-examples can make the definition more concrete. As with the “example” section, this box can include visuals and written words.

Similar to the “examples” section, the “non-examples” section ideally requires little guidance. The sample Frayer Model shows some of the more common examples of what animals are not mammals.

Using the Frayer Model in the Classroom

The Frayer Model is a beneficial vocabulary graphic organizer for all grades. In the lower grades, depending on the students’ abilities it may be beneficial to complete it as a class, with the teacher leading the discussion. Below are two examples of Frayer Models that might be used in the elementary grades in Math and ELA for vocabulary words or concepts. Some elementary students could make these on their own, while others would benefit from seeing a completed graphic organizer for more in-depth understanding.

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Frayer Models are not only great for all grades, but for all subjects. All subjects will have vocabulary or concepts unique to it that students will be required to know, and vocabulary is just the beginning. The default cell layout for the Frayer Model is four cells with the above vocabulary titles. The titles can be changed from the default with a simple click. Additionally, you can easily change the cell layout to cell only, cell and description, or cell, title and description.

While the Frayer Model is most often used for vocabulary building, use this format for anything. The Frayer Model is a useful graphic organizer for brainstorming different characteristics or ideas that surround one topic. The four cells allow for a very targeted approach to brainstorming, which is ideal for students who may get carried away and need to stay focused. This graphic organizer can be used before a project begins, to brainstorm ideas that will shape research, or it can be used after a project to help retain information gathered throughout the process.

Here are a few of the amazing things our teacher authors have come up with. What will you make?



Foreign Language


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  • Vocabulary
  • Vocabulary
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English Language Arts

Many concepts in English Language Arts are difficult to understand at first. With Frayer Models, you can break down the components of a concept into the traditional parts (Definitions, Characteristics, Examples, and Non-Examples), or you can separate the concept into four major parts.

Example Activities

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Use the Frayer Model layout for breaking apart arguments in historical documents or specific causes or importance of a historical event.

Example Activities

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Foreign Language

Vocabulary is a part of all subjects because there are always new terms for us to learn. Often students are encouraged to get a deep understanding of new words from a list or words that they read in a text very quickly. Use a Frayer Model to help.

Example Activities

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STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics)

There are many complicated topics, concepts, and vocabulary in all of the STEM areas that can be parsed out into more digestible chunks. The Frayer Model is particularly useful for struggling students or for a brief review before beginning a related topic.

Example Activities

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Applications for Special Education

Graphic organizers are great way to modify more complex written assignments for students with special needs. Students can demonstrate their understanding of vocabulary words, concepts, or special events with the use of a Frayer Model. The added step of a graphic organizer can give some special education students the added structure they need to complete an assignment on their own. Use Frayer Models to give students a boost for an informational report. Whether using the traditional titles for the four boxes, Definition, Characteristics, Examples, and Non-Examples, or using custom titles, such as Who, What, Where, and When, the Frayer Model can set students up for success.

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