This vocabulary strategy is especially great for abstract concept words or difficult academic terms. Students create a visual representation of a word on a four-square graphic organizer, also known as the Frayer Model. They use critical thinking skills and prior knowledge to make connections. And since students have varying degrees of background knowledge, it’s a great activity for differentiating instruction. Students contribute at their ability or level, and everyone is correct.

Give each student or pair of students a Word Map Graphic Organizer. It can also be made by dividing a piece of paper into four squares. The teacher can determine which words to define or have students choose from selected words. The labels of the four squares can be modified according to the students’ level, such as Pictures, Examples, Non-examples, Synonyms, Antonyms, Related Words, Sentences, or Definition. Answers do not have to be complete sentences; words or sentence fragments are fine. Students may use their native language, if needed. They may also draw pictures. The idea is for them to understand the concept of more abstract or academic vocabulary. Students (or pairs of students) present their graphic organizers to the class, as time permits.

For example:
Word: Election

Examples: Election for president, school election, class president election, George Washington
Non-examples: Teacher says who it is. King, queen
Characteristics: We vote. We decide.
Definition: When people vote and decide who wins