Understanding Core Values Using the Frayer Model
McKee Road Elementary School

By examining themes in literature as well as the actions of characters in fiction and persons in non-fiction, students can observe character in action. In order to understand character traits and themes, they must have a clear understanding of character traits. The more students analyze the traits in written text, the deeper their understanding of the traits will be. Using literature to examine character traits promotes engaging discussions and making connections to one’s own life.
The purpose of this lesson is to teach children how to learn and understand new words using the Frayer Model. This model is particularly good to use for helping students gain understanding of concepts and abstract ideas, though it works well with any new vocabulary words. The Frayer Model is based on the work of Dr. Dorothy Frayer, who has recently retired from her position at Duquesne University as the associate academic vice president and founding director of the Center for Teaching Excellence. Essentially, the model promotes higher level thinking regarding the understanding of new concepts by looking at definition, characteristics, examples, and non-examples. Dr. Frayer believes that a deep understanding of concepts evolves through the recognition of examples and non-examples. By knowing what something is not, one has a greater understanding of what something is. This lesson models use of the Frayer Model through a discussion of courage and cooperation, themes in Number the Stars and The View from Saturday, although it could be adapted for use with other works of fiction.

Students will:
  • Understand how to use the graphic organizer known as “The Frayer Model.”
  • Apply knowledge of the Frayer Model by analyzing core character traits to determine their meaning.
  • Overhead transparency of the Frayer Model
  • Copies of the Frayer Model for student use
  • Dictionaries
  • Copies of selected novels such as Number the Stars or The View from Saturday.
Before beginning, students must have read a fictional work that allows for discussion of core values and character traits such as courage or cooperation.

Day 1:

  1. Review the concept of theme in literature. Ask students to identify major themes in the novels they have been reading. Students propose various themes, such as courage or cooperation.
  2. Explain to students that they will now examine the theme more deeply by using a vocabulary graphic organizer called “the Frayer Model.”
  3. Explain the attributes of the Frayer Model to students (Definition, Characteristics, Examples, and Non-Examples).
  4. Model an example (such as courage or cooperation) and complete with the class.
  5. Explain that many of the school’s core values and traits are exemplified in characters in the novels we read. Mention, that they may see them also as themes in other novels read.
  6. Have students sit in small groups. Assign each group a character trait such as perseverance, respect, responsibility, honesty, citizenship and kindness. Have students complete a Frayer Model on their assigned traits independently.
  7. Students will begin work in class and complete for homework, if necessary.


Day 2:

  1. Review the parts of the Frayer Model.
  2. Explain that members of each group will now share their completed models. Then ask each group to develop a Frayer Model using the best ideas from members of the group.
  3. Circulate through the classroom as students are conferring and developing their group model.
  4. Ask each group to report out to members of the class.
  5. Display group models in the classroom.
  6. Explain that the models will continue to be referred to as other texts and novels are read and analyzed.

  • completed individual models
  • consolidated group model
  • observation of student discussion