Lesson Evaluation 1 – The Frayer Model

This is the first in (hopefully) a series of blogs in which I share what I do in the classroom. As always I claim no original ideas! I just simply wish to share how I use some of the many wonderful strategies and techniques that are out there whilst giving my honest appraisal of the efficacy of the techniques I discuss.

What is it?

The Frayer Model is a tool that can be used to introduce or explore existing vocabulary. It involves a grid with the key word at the centre surrounded by quartiles labelled “definition”, “examples”, “non-examples” and “diagrams”. (The latter adapted from “characteristics” – useful for the subject of Science!)


I had seen this doing the rounds on twitter for some time but it was only when my school was visited by Marcus Jones from Huntington Research School join us for a staff wide inset on literacy strategies earlier in the year. This was one takeaway that my team and I decided to explore further. Alex Quigley (National Content Manager at the Education Endowment Foundation) writes about in his blog here which includes a further Science example from Huntington.

My approach.

Graphic organisers are nothing new to me but hearing more about this particular model really got me thinking about the HOW it could be used.
– What questions should I ask?
– How much guidance do the pupils require?
– Is the time cost going to be worth it?
– Will this throw up more misconceptions than I can deal with?!

I opted to try this out with my Year 9 group. They were studying Diffusion in a biological context and had come across the word before in Y7. I suspected (hoped) few of them could recall the meaning of the term so I opened with a simple request,

“On your whiteboard I would like you to write down your current understanding of the word Diffusion”.

At the point it is crucial that the pupils do not discuss their response before writing it down for the first time. The last thing I want is inaccurate feedback to me about their understanding or for misconceptions to be passed from person to person before I establish accurate meaning!

The responses were incredibly mixed. It was quite a shock! At this stage we wrote down the correct definition together, over a visualiser, on our Frayer Model sheet. (I print them on A5 and hand them out before the start of the task.)

“The movement of Particles from an area of high concentration to an area of low concentration.”

Next I begin to spray deodorant. I now ask the pupils to raise their hand when they can smell it. As the smell diffuses (moves) across the room the pupils, armed with the correct knowledge / terminology, can begin to make links to real examples. I model the explanation of the deodorant example and then ask them to come up with some more examples in pairs before writing them onto mini whiteboards to share with me. I further question the room and unpick any non-examples that may emerge. We then add our top three examples and non-examples to our A5 sheet.

Interestingly it was in the discussion of the non-examples were the significant progress was made. The time spent unpicking why water flowing in a tap is not Diffusion or why a piece of a solid snapping in two is not Diffusion really helped the pupils to cement their knowledge onto their schema. Result!

Finally… Diagrams… There’s a lot we could potentially do here. I went for a simple particle diagram to illustrate the differences between a high and a low concentration. It is this part, in my experience, that pupils find the most challenging conceptually. I drew this live on the visualiser for them to replicate.

What next?

The entire activity lasted around 15 minutes but it was, in my opinion, time well spent. We went to discuss the factors that affect the rate of Diffusion and next lesson they will investigate one of those factors armed with the knowledge of what they should see. No discovery learning needed here!

During my teams’ curriculum development time we have shared our experiences of using the Frayer Model. We discussed when and why it was more successful compared to others. Words that provided opportunities to explore etymology and non-examples seemed to generate the best outcomes. We have also looked at upcoming topics and identified 8 more opportunities for the use of the model across Y7-10, factoring in what we have learned from our initial trial.

The verdict.

The Frayer Model is a great tool for framing discussion on specific vocabulary. I was surprised by how powerful it was at developing existing vocabulary in my Year 9 pupils. It is neither feasible nor time efficient to use it when introducing every key term but I will be seeking further opportunities to include it into my repertoire of teaching strategies!

If you have not used it before give it a whirl and let me know how it goes! I can be reached on twitter @DJGteaching

Non-examples for the win!

Thanks for stopping by.