What is a Frayer Model?

A FRAYER MODEL is a graphic organizer that helps students clarify the meaning of vocabulary words they encounter while listening, reading, and viewing texts. They can be used before reading to activate background knowledge, during reading to monitor vocabulary, or after reading to assess vocabulary.

The Frayer Model is a simple but useful tool that serves as a graphic organizer. It is a way for students who need a multisensory approach put a concept in a visual format. You can also read below how to add auditory and gross motor movement to the learning.

what is the frayer model

A Frayer model is a square divided into four equal boxes with an oval in the middle. The oval and the four boxes are all labeled with headings.

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The Frayer Model is sometimes referred to as a “Four Square Map” or “Four Square Mind Map.”

Who invented the Frayer Model?

Dorothy Frayer and her colleagues at the University of Wisconsin developed the Frayer Model. In 1969 they wanted students to learn vocabulary more efficiently. Dorothy and her team developed their model to support students through comprehensive and ultimately successful word analysis.

The Frayer Model is often discussed when interventions for dyslexia are being added to an IEP. While this is a simple strategy that is easy to implement, it shouldn’t be the only intervention. A solid IEP for Dyslexia is much more complex than one graphic organizer.

student doing homework

How does the Frayer Model engage students?

The Frayer Model represents vocabulary through multiple means.

Students begin with a single vocabulary word written in the center. They should write the definition of the word, identify antonyms and/or synonyms, and add graphics, an illustration, and/or photo representation in each of the four squares that surround the vocabulary word.

An important characteristic of the Frayer Model is that it addresses higher-order thinking and creativity. Students are able to become independent with this model, as it provides an excellent pattern for teaching, learning, and expanding one’s receptive language skills.

One really fun project I used to do with my students was to use magazine photos. That also added a tactile and fine motor element to the activity, and increased interest in the activity. Sometimes it’s the little things, ya know?

Ok, yeah sure, no one gets magazines in the mail anymore. I mean, I’m not that old. But magazines and catalogs are not nearly as plentiful as they were just a decade ago. (I left teaching in 2010.)

My idea would be difficult to implement in today’s classrooms. But, you can change this up a bit, have the student do this online, either alone or in groups. And they can add text and photos.

Here is the link to this blank Frayer model in Canva to edit it digitally.

student working on a device

What grades can use the Frayer Model?

All students, grades K–12, benefit from the Frayer Model since it addresses a variety of learning preferences. Students who are visual learners will gravitate toward the visual input that the four-square outline provides for them.

The parent/teacher may need to change the the words in the boxes, but it can be applied to any age group. For example, you may ask a younger child “What words are the SAME as this word?” instead of using synonym.

Students who are auditory learners will prefer hearing the definition and other audio options presented through the model.

Body kinesthetic learners will appreciate the opportunity to illustrate their learning and understanding, if the teacher chooses to make this a group activity with movement around the classroom.

Does a Frayer Model address different types of learning?

The Frayer Model adapts to various modes of learning preferences. It supports visual, auditory, body kinesthetic, and a combination of learning styles.

In this model students define and apply their knowledge using higher-order thinking by generating examples and non-examples (synonyms and antonyms), noting specific characteristics, and/or providing an illustration to define the vocabulary word.

How do I incorporate the Frayer Model into student work?

When using the Frayer Model, the focus should be on leading students to clarify their understanding of vocabulary and to develop their ability to use words within the correct context. Methods may range from no-tech format, such as paper and pencil, to high-tech format, such as Microsoft Word, various text applications, or Google Docs.

One of the benefits of using the Frayer Model is the flexibility. At first glance, it’s a pretty simple worksheet. But, think creatively and it allows for student movement while working. One of my preferred movement activities involves putting large sticky notes on a wall.

A blank sample Frayer Model is below. The students make a notation on each. They then move from one sticky note to the next, adding their information. This allows students to view one another’s work and learn from each other.

sample blank frayer model

Ideas for Using the Frayer Model

  • Introducing a new vocabulary word
  • Studying various characters
  • Identifying target vocabulary words within a chapter book
  • Studying and reviewing for a vocabulary test
  • Expanding upon higher-order thinking through illustrations

Can you use the Frayer Model for Math?

The Frayer Model can be used for math concepts and terms, but not calculations.

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