Zooming in on Vocabulary: Prezi and the Frayer Model

By Thomas DeVere Wolsey and Dana L. Grisham

Graphic organizers have helped many students grasp vocabulary for years. The most effective uses of graphic organizers require students to use vocabulary, often through engagement with text, peers, and teachers in multiple ways.  In other words, it won’t do for students to simply “complete” a graphic organizer. Rather, they must use the organizer to explore the concept or vocabulary term under consideration.

In this post, we share the tool Prezi as a digital home for the Frayer model of vocabulary learning. Prezi works like traditional slide deck programs, such as PowerPoint or Google Slides in some ways, but Prezi does not rely on linear presentation models. Rather, you can zoom in and out to different parts of the Prezi or follow a prescribed path. Prezi allows the creator or user to zoom from area to area by dragging or by following a pathway that may or may not be linear. The user can zoom in to closely examine one aspect of the show, or zoom out to obtain a broad overview.  This aspect of Prezi makes it a perfect digital tool for the Frayer model.

Click the images to be taken to the Prezi templates you can reuse in your own classroom.

Prezi Frayer Template

Prezi Template for Frayer Model

This version uses a picture as one element of the Frayer.

Frayer Picture Prezi

Prezi Template for Frayer with Picture

We have found that the strength of the Frayer model lies in its requirement that students explore “non examples” of the target term.  The Frayer is a simple graphic organizer with four quadrants and the word in the middle. It is similar to word maps and other vocabulary learning organizers. However, the Frayer asks students to dig more deeply into what they know and can discover about the term by examining critical attributes.  This is where non-examples come in to play.

A non-example must be more than just an opposite or something generic that a target word to be learned is not. That is to say, that if an astronomy target word is “eclipse” then the non-example cannot simply be “galaxy.” The two terms share a topic in common, but they do not share some attributes that lead to great depth of understanding. As students become increasingly familiar with the target word, they should also explore attributes of the term. Once they are familiar with the attributes of the target, they can identify non-examples that might be confused with the term because the non-examples might share some, but not all, of the target attributes.  Through discussion and exploration of internet resources, students come to a much deeper understanding of the concepts represented by the target word.

Using “eclipse” as a target word for Frayer, students might realize that the attributes of the concept of eclipse include one celestial body, such as a moon, passing in front of another, such as the Earth blocking light from reaching an observer. While celestial bodies pass in front of each other regularly, the key attribute of an eclipse is that light is blocked from the point of view of an observer.  A non-example of “eclipse” is “lunar orbit.” In a lunar orbit, the moon routinely passes in front of an observer on Earth, but only periodically does it also block the light from the sun.

In our work with vocabulary, we have found (see our article on Vocabulary Self-collection Strategy in The Reading Teacher) that a search for relevant images is a powerful way for students to make sense of the words they encounter. For this reason, we have changed one quadrant of the Prezi’d Frayer to include an image representing the target word. Finally, we suggest that students post links to their Frayer organizers on a class blog or other website.  Activities asking students to view and respond to each other’s Prezi’s further improve the possibility that students deeply learn the target words that are so important in many content areas.

We have made the two Prezi templates public and reusable. You can share these with your students to save as one of their own, or you can redesign our templates for your class needs.

4 Responses

  1. This is great; I wasn’t expecting to find something so useful in the first post I read on this blog. I’ve actually been looking for better ways to deal with tone vocabulary for my AP English Language students, and this would be perfect! With the templates and modelling, I could assign terms to the students and have them present the Prezi to the class. I’m very excited about trying this out.

    I’ve also never tried the Frayer model before. Any tips for helping students take ownership of their learning using this model?

    • Hi Matt, Thanks for the kind words! Prezi fits the jigsaw model well, so you might assign a group a set of terms, then have them meet with expert groups to design the Frayer in Prezi. Next, they can return to the home group to share what they learned. The hard part for students is the non-example, so you’ll need to provide some examples of non-examples (couldn’t resist) to model why that element is important. Have fun, and let us know how it goes! BTW–I enjoyed your post on Literatikarate about the Beautiful Mess.

  2. This is exactly what I was looking for! Vocab instruction is so often ineffective – I feel this strategy will let the students connect with some of the higher level terms in Gatsby

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