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A Quick Look at the Frayer Model Strategy

Janelle Cox

Teachers use graphic organizers as classroom management tools for many reasons: They help students classify and organize their ideas, they help them construct meaning, as well as help students communicate more effectively. The Frayer Model is no exception. This graphic organizer aids students in learning precise meanings of key concepts. This exceptional teaching strategy is widely popular and a staple in most classrooms. Here we will take a quick look at what it is, and how it works.


The Frayer Model is a visual graphic organizer that helps students select and organize information related to a key concept. Its grid design is divided into four sections: Essential characteristics, nonessential characteristics, examples and nonexamples. The purpose for using this type of graphic organizer is to create a visual reference to help students identify unfamiliar concepts and vocabulary.

Advantages and Benefits

The Frayer Model has several advantages and benefits. Here we will take a look at a few of each.


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  • Helps make connections between what students know and what they will learn.
  • Can be used before, during, or after reading.
  • It improves retention of information.
  • Students learn how one concept relates to another concept.


  • Promotes critical thinking.
  • Can be used individually, in small groups, or whole group.
  • Draws on students’ prior knowledge.
  • Creates a visual reference to compare examples.

How to Create and Use the Frayer Model

Before introducing the Frayer Model to students, you should first choose a concept and write down the definition as well as all of the essential and nonessential characteristics, and a list of examples and nonexamples. For the example below will use the topic “mammals.”


Step 1: Introduce the topic “mammals” to your students. Divide students into groups and have them list as many examples of a mammal as they can come up with. Then, come back together as a class and list the examples on the board.

Step 2: Organize the examples into a hierarchical map. For example, include general and parallel classes of things that are not directly a part of the “mammal” concept. This will helps students see the relationship between concepts.

Step 3: Add to the map any items and examples that you had on your own map. Discuss with students the characteristics of all the examples of the main concept.

Step 4: Guide students into finding the nonessential characteristics. The ones that are irrelevant to the main concept.

Step 5: Next, have students read about the main concept. As they read, encourage them to look for additional information that can be added to the model. They can look for any information that fits into any of the four categories.

                                                                                          Frayer Model Example -- Mammals

Essential Characteristics

  • Has lungs
  • Has four limbs
  • Has hair on body
  • Can give birth to young

Nonessential Characteristics

  • Color
  • Age
  • Size
  • Gender
  • Life span


  • Man
  • Monkey
  • Cow
  • Horse


  • Snake
  • Bird
  • Fish
  • Duck


Other Uses for the Frayer Model

The Frayer Model can be used in a few other ways. Here’s how.

Before Reading

  • Use the graphic organizer to activate students’ prior knowledge. Show students a completed Frayer Model but leave out the name in the concept circle. See if they can name the main concept by looking at the four squares.

During Reading

  • As a class, generate a list of words that connect to the main concept. Then, divide students into small groups to fill in the four sections of the Frayer Model using the list of words that was brainstormed.

After Reading

  • Discuss the main concept of the Frayer Model and talk about the nonexamples. Add any new knowledge to the graphic organizer.

The Frayer model can also be altered to have students define, and input facts and characteristics in the top two boxes. By looking at the examples and nonexamples students will help clarify their understanding of the main word. This tool can also help teachers quickly assess students for learning.

Have you ever used the Frayer Model in your classroom? What do you think of it? Share with us in the comment section below.

Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for, as well as a contributing writer to and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators.


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