Frayer Square

The Frayer Square is four-section graphic organizer tool that can be used to gain a deeper understanding of vocabulary and concepts. It requires students to define a term in their own words, give characteristics of the term, and give examples and non-examples that explain the meaning of the term.

Benefits to students include:

  • Making connections between prior learning and new concepts
  • Building critical thinking skills by both analyzing (defining) and synthesizing (examples, non-examples) information
  • Developing understanding of concepts in one’s own words
  • Sharing learning with classmates (in the form of ‘visual references’ e.g. posters and/or a class word wall)

A typical Frayer “4-square” model includes the following elements:

  • Definition in students' own words
  • Examples
  • Non-examples (knowing what a concept isn’t helps define what it is)
  • Essential characteristics or illustration of concept

Download a Strategy Guide for this Activity


  1. The teacher models the process by completing one entire Frayer Square. At this point, the teacher may choose to request student input or not.

  2. Students then work individually to fill out their own Frayer Squares for an assigned word (or set of words). 

  3. (Optional) Once finished, students work with a partner to share their responses.

  4. (Optional) The teacher works with students to create a class Frayer Square for each assigned word.

Helpful Tips

  1. Vary the model by changing the four elements, as follows:

    • Examples
    • Non-examples
    • Essential characteristics
    • Non-essential characteristics

    (Adapted from The Teacher Toolkit)

  2. Give students a Frayer Square with the middle circle blank and all the squares filled in, and ask students to guess the vocabulary word.

    (Adapted from The Teacher Toolkit)

  3. Students who are younger or not yet able to write may be asked to draw their ideas.

  4. Limit the number of words or concepts presented in each lesson to five or less.


  1. Copies of a Frayer Square for each student.

  2. One large graphic organizer for the teacher to record student responses

Sample Materials

Click a thumbnail to see a larger version.