Graphic Organizer to Build Vocabulary-Frayer Model

  • Situation

    I am a middle school Learning Support teacher and have 2 very bright students (above average IQ) with Asperger’s Syndrome that surprisingly have a tough time understanding some of the words or concepts in our reading selections, even though their expressive vocabulary seems pretty “profession-like” at times.  Any ideas of how I can build their receptive vocabulary?

  • Summary

    Regardless of a child’s intelligence level, reading problems could still be present.  In some cases, students with Asperger Syndrome may have what appears to be high expressive vocabulary but not necessarily understand fully what some words they use mean.  In reading texts, more abstract concepts such as “democracy” could be problematic for these kids.  It is important to directly teach vocabulary and one strategy to do this is by use of the Frayer Model, a graphic organizer for vocabulary building.

  • Definition

    The Frayer Model is a vocabulary building graphic organizer that prompts students to think about and describe the meaning of unfamiliar words or concepts.  With the use of the model, the target word id defined, characteristics are identified along with examples and non-examples.  Use of the Frayer Model provided students an opportunity to explain and elaborate their understanding of a target word or concept.

  • Quick Facts

    • Child's Age: 6-10, 11-13, 14-17, 18+
    • Planning Effort: Low
    • Difficulty Level: Easy
  • Pre-requisites

    Attend to teacher during large group instruction


    Reading at a level where the student can read the passage or reading selection and go back to retrieve information within the text.  Students who may need extra assistance can still benefit from use of the model, for example, teacher can pair struggling reader with proficient reader or conduct full group lesson.

  • Process

    1. Explain the use of the Frayer Model to your students.

    2. Have copies of the graphic organizer available or have it projected overhead for large group demonstration and use.

    3. *Pre-select target words from the reading selection.  Generally, think about words that are necessary for passage understanding and those that the students will need some familiarity with in order to understand the “gist” of a passage.  You may also want to think about some words that a student is likely to encounter elsewhere, such as other classes or reading a magazine.

    4. Model the use of the graphic organizer by completing it with your class using one of the target words from your reading selection.  Use the text and discussion to define the word, list characteristics, jprovide examples and most importantly, non-examples. 

    5. Use the Frayer Model regularly as a pre-reading strategy to help your students better understand more difficult words in their reading assignments.

    * For more information on how to choose words to teach see:

    Beck, Mckeown, Kucan (2002) Bringing Words to Life: Robust Vocabulary Instruction: NY, Guildford Press

    Flanigan & Greenwood (2007) Effective Content Instruction in the Middle: Matching purposes, words and strategies.  Journal of Adolescent Literacy 151 (3), 226-238.

  • Documents and Related Resources (sample site for printable graphic organizers)


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