Tier 3 Vocabulary via the Frayer Model with Newsela for Elementary Students

Students will unpack and learn domain-specific vocabulary using the Frayer Model
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Frayer Model Annotation Explanation

About This Strategy

The Frayer Model is a form of learning vocabulary in which students define the word, list its characteristics, and identify what the word means and what it does not mean. Using the Frayer Model gives students a broader and deeper understanding of vocabulary by helping them analyze words in the greater context of a reading passage and apply the knowledge in different ways. The Frayer Model can be used across all content areas and can be adapted to include components such as using the word in a sentence, drawing a picture representation of the word, or identifying what part of speech the word fits into.

Before Reading Implementation Steps

Teacher Preparation and Planning:

  1. Become familiar with the components of the Frayer model and how this model is used to help students develop their vocabulary.

    • The Frayer model helps students gain a deeper understanding of vocabulary in the context of a reading passage by having them analyze the word and apply it in different ways.   

  2. Choose an article related to a current or future unit of study.

    • Newsela PRO users can create an assignment using the article or Text Set and write the directions for the assignment in the Instructions portion.

    • Non-Newsela PRO users can write the directions for the assignment on the board in the classroom or create a handout with the directions for students to use.

  3. Identify what vocabulary words students will be expected to complete a Frayer model for. Students should be expected to complete no more than three Frayer models per article they read, so be sure to select vocabulary terms that relate to the overarching goals of the unit.

    • Newsela PRO users can use the Power Words feature to help them choose essential vocabulary words.

  4. Decide what components of the Frayer model are appropriate to the age level of the students and create a template or use a sample template below. The basic components of a Frayer model are:

    • The definition of the word

    • Facts or characteristics of the word

    • Examples of the word

    • Non-examples of the word

Other components that can be substituted in the Frayer model include:

    • An illustration of the word

    • Synonyms of the word

    • What part of speech the word is

    • How to pronounce the word

    • Origin of the word

  • Make enough copies of the Frayer model for each student to have one template for each vocabulary word they will be expected to complete.

Student Preparation:

  1. Introduce students to the components of the Frayer model they will be expected to complete.

  2. Model how to read through an article and complete the Frayer model for the selected vocabulary words.

  3. Explain what article students will be reading and the words they will be expected to study using the Frayer model. Some things to consider include:

    • Will each student be required to study all the selected vocabulary words or will students be assigned particular words and then share their findings with their peers?

    • Will each student be required to complete the same number of vocabulary words?

  4. Give each student one copy of the Frayer model template for each vocabulary word they will need to study. To save paper, print the Frayer models back to back or allow students to create the Frayer model digitally.

During Reading Implementation Steps

  1. Have students read the article twice. The purpose of the first read is to become familiar with the content of the article.

  2. During the second reading, students will use the Annotation feature to identity information from the article that will help them complete their Frayer model. For example, students can use context clues surrounding the word to help them develop a definition of the word.

    • Newsela PRO users can annotate directly in Newsela.

    • Non-PRO users can print off the article and have their students annotate it using colored writing utensils. Alternatively, non-PRO users can take notes on a separate sheet of paper while they read.

  3. Students should be encouraged to look at the text at multiple Lexile levels. Reading the text at multiple Lexile levels can help students develop a broader understanding of the word they are studying by seeing how context clues at different levels support the word.

After Reading Implementation Steps

  1. Have students use the information they learned while reading the Newsela text to complete the Frayer model to the best of their ability.

  2. If additional information is needed about the definition of the word, part of speech, pronunciation, or origin of the word, students should consult a dictionary or thesaurus.

  3. After consulting all available resources, if students are not able to fill out all the information in their model, they should conference with their peers or their teacher to fill in the remainder of the model.

  4. Once Frayer models are completed, students can share their work with a peer.

    • Sharing with a peer who studied the same word will give students the opportunity to talk through each part of the Frayer model to ensure they understood the word correctly.

    • Sharing with a peer who studied a different word will give students the opportunity to explain their word orally as well as hear about a word they did not study themselves.

  5. When all students have had a chance to share their completed work with a peer, the teacher will gather students together to reflect on the process and review the required words.  

Recommended Newsela Text or Text Sets

The Power of the Written Word

  • Grade Level: 4-8
  • Content Area:  ELA


Math: Then & Now

  • Grade Level: 3-8
  • Content Area: Math


Federal, State, & Local Government

  • Grade Level: 3-8
  • Content Area: Social Studies


Earth Sciences: Earth Materials & Systems

  • Grade Level: 4-8
  • Content Area: Science


Technology Revolution

  • Grade Level: 4-8
  • Content Area:  Technology and Engineering

EL Modification

Building vocabulary is essential for EL students to understand not only what they are reading but also what is happening at school. In addition to using the Frayer model for content-area vocabulary, the Frayer model can also be used for common school vocabulary. Frayer models completed by the teacher explaining common educational terms can be posted in the classroom as a guidepost for EL students.


  • EL students can work in a peer group or directly with the teacher to complete a Frayer model of essential vocabulary.

  • The teacher can provide the definition of the word.

  • Pictures are universal, and many of the components of the Frayer model, such as the examples and non-examples, can be illustrated instead of written.

  • The Frayer model can be used for root words.

Culturally Responsive Teaching and Learning Considerations

The English language was borrowed and adapted from many other languages. Adding a component to the Frayer model in which students identify the origin of the word can lead to robust discussions about other parts of the world, other cultures, and how words come to be.


  • Have students create a Frayer model of an English word with a root in a different language. On the Frayer model, have students explain the origin of the word.  

  • If students are studying a different language or are fluent in a language other than English, have them create a Frayer model about a word in that language.

    • As an alternative, students can create a Frayer model which includes a picture, the origin of the word, and non-examples. After presenting the Frayer model, their peers can guess what the examples would be based on the other information.

Questions to Consider

  • What words are essential to know in order to have a deeper understanding of the topic or article?

  • Will the teacher choose all the words, or will there be some student choice involved?

  • Will every student be required to complete the same number of Frayer models?

  • Will every student be required to complete Frayer models on the same words?

Consulted Resources

In developing this strategy, the resources linked below from The Teacher Toolkit and this resource from the National Behavior Support Service were consulted.