Should I teach just words or sentences?

singlewordsOne question I often get asked is….

Should I teach just words or full sentences?

In the beginning I used to just teach words.

My thinking was that no real English kid would ever say “My name is …. ย ” to the question.

They’d just say their name!

So I taught lots and lots of words. ย Animals. Colours. Transport. ย Tons of stuff. ย Eventually the kids knew a few hundred words. ย Which I thought was quite good. ย We were all very proud! ๐Ÿ™‚

But ….. ย then we quickly realised that even though they had learnt all these hundreds of words, ย they couldn’t make a sentence at all! ย They just sat there trying to communicate with only single words and ended up sounding like little cavemen!

So I figured we needed to change tactics.

I started teaching full sentences instead.

It made the world of difference and the new kids could talk, properly!

They were now used to grammar and sentence forming and their speed of learning was through the roof.

(Plus it was hardly any extra work which was really cool!)

And the best thing was that we were covering all those tiny little words that make up so much of English.


Did you know that the top 25 words in English comprise 33% of all printed English?
The top 100 words comprise 50%.ย 

So that’s why I now always recommend teaching in full sentences, even if it’s just simple things like “I like ..” or “It’s a ..” ย  Eventually you cover all the most common structures and they end up learning grammar for free. ย Which is pretty cool.

Give it a try, I think you’ll like it!

Be genki,


P.S. ย One other really good reason to teach full sentences with questions is that it vastly aids comprehension when speaking with other non-native speakers. ย For example if you say “What’s your name?” and the other person doesn’t understand from your accent, then you can then point to yourself, say “My name is …” and then ask the question again. ย  This idea of saying the answer first and then asking the question is very a very powerful communication tool!

Richard Graham

Hello, I'm Richard Graham. And when I was a kid I found school to be sooooo boring... So I transformed my way of teaching. I listened to what the kids were really wanting to say and taught it in ways they really wanted to learn. The results were magical. So I'm sharing it all with you now...

3 Responses to “Should I teach just words or sentences?”

  1. Mr.Rainbow

    Teaching sentences are also a good way to keep the kids motivated.
    In the beginning I focused on teaching words, but was losing the interest of the bigger kids (8~10).
    Then I started focusing on using the words in sentences, and they picked up interest again because the lessons became “useful” again… something they would be able to use in real life ๐Ÿ˜‰

  2. Elvira

    Absolutely agree! One of the main reasons why non-native speakers are not able to speak is that they have been taught by pure words not by sentences. In most of our schools there is still such an approach to language teaching – words- translation- memorizing- putting them in ะฐ text- translation again. There’s no place for communication, the ultimate goal of language teaching. This always killed me as a foreign language student and then a teacher, that’s why I was searching something that could help me work to full effect. And ะฐt last I found it! Genki English sentence based program perfectly fit my idea of learning (and teaching) a foreign language. I’m very happy that I do not have to invent something new!

  3. Sema

    In my opinion teaching full sentences is easier than teaching words because students cannot build a sentence by using words so it is easier for them to form a sentence and speak by the help of this method.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *