Chapter 10: An Introduction to the KISS Approach

        Twenty years have taught me that introducing the KISS Approach is not an easy task. The problem is not in the difficulty of the approach -- the approach itself is easier than most people think. Rather, the problem is in the preconceptions that most people bring to the question of teaching grammar. People expect a grammar textbook -- with numerous definitions and examples, rules and exceptions. That is how grammar has been taught in the past, and that is what people expect. The KISS Approach, however, does not work like that. This first part of this chapter attempts to demonstrate the KISS Difference; the last part of the chapter explains how the KISS Approach addresses one of the primary reasons teachers (and school boards) give for teaching grammar in the first place -- the problem of "errors."

The KISS Difference

        I often use a joke to begin my work on syntax with students. I put it on an overhead, and the first thing they see is:

I watch their faces squint at the screen for a minute or two and then ask them what is taking them so long. They, of course, look at me as if I am crazy, but I point out that a thousand years ago, that is the way texts were written -- there were no punctuation marks or spaces between words. Of course, there weren't many texts around then, and those who dealt with them were monks who were in no particular hurry. But at some point in our history, some apparently unknown monk made a tremendous discovery. Texts are easier to read if there are spaces between the words:
Two men members of a religious order wanted to smoke while walking in the garden they agreed that each would ask his superior for permission the first one returned to find the second one smoking and complained indignantly I was refused what did you ask inquired the second one I asked if I could smoke while meditating oh said the other blowing his smoke reflectively I asked if I could meditate while smoking
The reading goes much more quickly, and when most of the students are done, I ask if, based on the first "sentence," they know if the men were in the garden when they made their agreement. Although they are somewhat hesitant, most of the students respond to this question with a "Yes, they were" or "No, they weren't." Occasionally, a bright student notes that it is impossible to tell from the first sentence. I then show them the punctuated version:
Two men, members of a religious order, wanted to smoke while walking in the garden. They agreed that each would ask his superior for permission.
The period, of course, separates the "while walking in the garden" from "They agreed." In looking at this sentence, the students conclude that they can't tell whether or not the men were in the garden when they made their agreement. They also note that if it were punctuated as "While walking in the garden, they agreed . . . ." they could give me a conclusive answer. The point of this little exercise, of course, is to help students understand that the "rules" of punctuation are not simply rules of etiquette. Our ancestors developed them to help clarify the meaning in written texts.
        Far too often grammar textbooks present the "rules" as if they come from some unknown superior authority, and as if our students are sheep or slaves who are simply expected to follow without question. Our children are not sheep, nor are they slaves, and it is no wonder that they learn less than half of a grammar that treats them as if they were. Treat students as the intelligent humans that they are, and they will respond much differently. The KISS Approach tries to do that.
        The primary objective of The KISS Approach is to enable students to discuss intelligently how any word in any sentence that they read or write syntactically relates to a main subject and verb. Given this ability, students can understand and discuss not only why errors are considered errors, but also numerous aspects of the style of their own writing. To give students this ability, KISS almost always focuses on real texts, not on a list of grammatical rules or constructions. This may not sound like a big difference, but it is fundamental. It puts the focus on the analysis of texts (and their meaning) and not on the grammatical constructions.
        The approach was developed using a number of texts, but for purposes of illustration, I want to use the joke about the two men. It is important to note that I did not make this joke up. I found it in Braude's Handbook of Humor for All Occasions (p. 166). To help students be able to discuss how any word fits into the structure of any sentence, KISS works through five "levels." Students begin at Level One by learning to identify all the prepositional phrases in any text. Then they add constructions to their analytical skills until they can explain the function of almost every word in any text.

KISS Level One: Prepositional Phrases

        In the first level, students learn to put parentheses around each prepositional phrase in the text. While at this level, some teachers may want their students to see how the phrases function as adjectives or adverbs. Analyzed at this level, our example would look as follows:

        Two men, members (of a religious order) [Adjective to  "members"], wanted to smoke while walking (in the garden) [Adverb to either "wanted" or "to smoke"]. They agreed that each would ask his superior (for permission) [Adverb to "ask"].
        The first one returned to find the second one smoking and complained indignantly: "I was refused!"
        "What did you ask?" inquired the second one.
        "I asked if I could smoke while meditating."
        "Oh," said the other, blowing his smoke reflectively, "I asked if I could meditate while smoking!"
The joke consists of 73 words, nine of which are in prepositional phrases. In this passage, therefore, we can say that the student who can identify the phrases is 12% (9 / 73) of the way toward the ultimate KISS goal.
        In its use of prepositional phrases, this joke, like jokes in general, appears to be below the norm of average writing. As I write this, the KISS web site contains numerous analyzed passages. Because of the amount of time it takes, only some of them are analyzed and tabulated for each of the KISS levels. In general, it appears that the norm for adult writing is to have about 33% of the words in prepositional phrases. My analysis of the writing of fourth graders, on the other hand, suggests that in their writing, about 23% of the words are in such phrases. This means that fourth graders who can identify prepositional phrases are 23%, almost a quarter, of the way toward the final analytical goal with respect to their own writing. An analysis of the opening of six novels revealed that 46% (almost half) of the words are in prepositional phrases.
        The analysis of the prepositional phrases in our example demonstrates another aspect of the KISS Approach. Some readers themselves may have wondered about "to smoke" and "to find." Many years ago, a well-known English linguist objected to the KISS Approach, because, he said, prepositional phrases can be too complex. The objection suggests why linguists have not been able to solve the problem of teaching grammar. Interested in the leaves, they never see the trees, much less the forest. It is, however, very simple to expect students to make mistakes with advanced configurations of constructions and to simply ignore such mistakes.

KISS Level One Plus: Adding Adjectives and Adverbs

        Within the KISS Approach, none of the higher levels depend on the students' ability to recognize all the adjectives and adverbs. As a result, they are not considered a separate KISS level. Students currently study them early in primary grades, and these two concepts can be worked into the KISS Approach at any level. In "Cobweb Corner," the KISS research area on the web site, they are considered as Level One Plus. Within the KISS Approach, however, they can be very important in helping students see how much they already understand -- how much of a text they can already analyze. The joke illustrates the point. [I have increased the font size of the text. Words already analyzed are in smaller type; adjectives and adverbs are in a larger bold font.]

        Two men, members (of a religious order), wanted to smoke while walking (in the garden). They agreed that each would ask his superior (for permission).
        The first one returned to find the second one smoking and complained indignantly: "I was refused!"
        "What did you ask?" inquired the second one.
        "I asked if I could smoke while meditating."
        "Oh," said the other, blowing his smoke reflectively, "I asked if I could meditate while smoking!"
The twelve adjectives and adverbs bring the total number of words analyzed to nineteen, or 29% of the 73 total words. In the study of fourth graders' writing, the comparable percentage was 42%; for the novelists, 62%. If students are presented with their ultimate objective -- the ability to analyze every word in every sentence, they can be given an exercise or two in which they identify all the words in prepositional phrases and all the adjectives and adverbs. They can then count the words and see for themselves how far they have progressed. They will see that they are well on their way toward the goal. To my knowledge, there is no other approach to teaching grammar that gives students such a specific goal -- with a foreseeable end, and then moves them so quickly toward that goal in a way that they themselves can see their own progress.
        Unlike many of the new linguistic grammars, KISS does not, for example, worry about whether "his" is an adjective or a possessive pronoun. (Does it make a difference?) Nor does KISS treat determiners (a, an, the) as a separate category. The linguists' argument, as I understand it, is that determiners function differently. But if we follow that logic, we will end up with 10,000 different categories. It is true that ESL students have problems with determiners, but there is nothing that says that supplemental materials cannot be added to the KISS Approach to meet special needs.

KISS Level Two: Adding Subjects, Finite Verbs, and Complements

        "Finite" verbs are the verbs that are underlined twice in traditional exercises. "Complement" is a single word that can be used to refer to predicate nouns, predicate adjectives and direct and indirect objects. If we add the words in these constructions to our analysis, we get the following:

        Two men, members (of a religious order), wanted to smoke while walking (in the garden). They agreed that each would ask his superior (IO) (for permission).
        The first one returned to find the second one smoking and complained indignantly: "I was refused!"
"What (DO) did you ask?" inquired the second one.
"I asked if I could smoke while meditating."
"Oh," said the other, blowing his smoke reflectively, "I asked if I could meditate while smoking!"
We have added 33 words to our total -- we are now 74% of the way toward our goal, and the count is conservative.  (The comparable number for fourth graders is 90%; for the novelists, 92%.) Some readers may have wanted to count "to smoke" in the first sentence, as the direct object of "wanted," or they may prefer to view "wanted to smoke" as the verb phrase. Within the KISS Approach, either of these explanations would be acceptable. I have not counted it because "to smoke" is an infinitive. Some students may not see it, either as the direct object or as part of the verb. I would accept their view. They'll pick up "to smoke" at KISS Level Four (Verbals). Some people might also want to consider "one" as the direct object of "find" (first sentence, second paragraph), and "smoke" as the direct object of "blowing" (last sentence). These people would be correct, but I do not count these words here because "find" and "blowing" are verbals. I would not expect students, at Level Two, to identify verbals or their objects.
        Note that I have counted the "and" which joins the finite verbs "returned" and "complained." In KISS Level One, students should be taught that "And, or, and but join equals."  They need this at this Level so that they do not miss compound objects of prepositions ("with Sue and Mary"). They can be told, but not expected to memorize, that these are "coordinating conjunctions." The term "coordinating" really isn't necessary until KISS Level Three (Clauses), where they need to distinguish "coordinating" from "subordinating."

KISS Level Three: Adding Clauses

        The KISS Approach to clauses builds on the students' ability to identify S/V/C patterns -- for every such pattern, there will be one clause. Here, however, we are primarily interested in how the addition of clauses helps students reach their goal. The ability to identify clauses doesn't normally add much in terms of words analyzed, but it does make important parts of the sentence fall into place. In the KISS Approach, subordinate clauses are put in brackets; main clauses are separated by a thick vertical line (here represented by "\").

        Two men, members (of a religious order), wanted to smoke [while walking (in the garden)]. / They agreed [that each would ask his superior (IO) (for permission)]. /
        The first one returned to find the second one smoking and complained indignantly: ["I was refused!"]. /
       ["What (DO) did you ask?"] inquired the second one/
       "I asked [if I could smoke [while meditating." ]] /
       "Oh,"[ said the other, blowing his smoke reflectively,] "I asked [if I could meditate [while smoking!"]] /
We have added nine words to our analysis, and are thus 86 % of the way through the text. (The comparable numbers for both fourth graders and novelists are 94 %.) This passage is atypical in that it contains three "semi-reduced" clauses -- "while walking," "while meditating," and "while smoking."  Since students working at this level are initially looking for complete subject / verb / complement patterns, it will take them a while before they recognize the semi-reductions. Once they become accustomed to recognizing subordinate conjunctions, however, they have little difficulty in seeing that a semi-reduced clause is simply a clause in which the subject and part of the verb have been ellipsed. {While they were walking . . . .) Like compounding, ellipsis is a concept that teachers can introduce gradually, as it is needed.
       Some people may object to my considering "said the other, blowing his smoke reflectively," as a subordinate clause.  As noted previously, KISS allows alternate explanations. Personally, I prefer to view this clause as an interjection, but others may want to see it as the main subject / verb pattern -- "Blowing his smoke reflectively, the other one said, ["Oh, I asked [if I could meditate [while smoking!"]]] Such alternate explanations enable students to analyze the sentence in the way that most makes sense to them.
       The clauses in this joke are my reason for choosing to use it as my example. Some grammarians like to argue against the "rule" that the main idea of a sentence should usually be located in the S/V/C slot of the main clause. Their argument, as I understand it, is that such is not always the case. But the joke makes sense only if we understand that the main idea generally does go in the main S/V slot. The first man asked: "Can I smoke [while I am meditating]?" The answer was "No." The second man asked: "Can I meditate [while I am smoking]?" The answer was "Yes."  The response, in other words, was to the idea in the main S/V slots.
       A common problem of many weak writers is that they stick important ideas in constructions that are located far from the main subject and verb. This joke helps to make students aware that they should at least be paying attention to relative importance of their ideas -- and where those ideas are located in the sentence. Within the KISS Approach, we do not need to give students "rules" and tell them to accept them on our authority. We can give them examples, which the approach enables them to understand, and then ask the students to judge for themselves.

KISS Level Four: Adding Verbals

        Verbals are verbs that function as nouns, adjectives, or adverbs. In KISS Level Two, students learn to identify finite verbs. Since they are doing so in the process of analyzing real texts, they are going to find a few verbals. If they were analyzing our sample passage, for example, one or more of the students would have wanted to know what "blowing" is. It is certainly a verb -- why aren't they underlining it twice? Most approaches to grammar do not evoke this question because they generally do not have students explain all the words in randomly selected texts.
        In the KISS Approach, my experience has been that students like having a term for those "other verbs." They want a name. Thus, at Level Two, they are simply told that those other verbs are called "verbals" and that they will study them later. And, at Level Four, the term is still helpful because every verb that is not finite has to be one of the three verbals. Definitions and suggestions for teaching verbals are discussed in Chapter Fifteen. Here, we are interested in how verbals help students reach their analytical goal.

        Two men, members (of a religious order), wanted to smoke [while walking (in the garden)]. / They agreed [that each would ask his superior (IO) (for permission)]. /
        The first one returned to find the second one smoking and complained indignantly: ["I was refused!"]. /
       ["What (DO) did you ask?"] inquired the second one/
       "I asked [if I could smoke [while meditating." ]] /
       "Oh,"[ said the other, blowing his smoke reflectively,] "I asked [if I could meditate [while smoking!"]] /
The verbals add seven words to our analytical range, bringing our progress to 96 %. (The comparable number for both fourth graders and novelists is 97 %.) Again my count is conservative. Some people will see "one" as the direct object of "to find" (first sentence, second paragraph). That explanation is certainly acceptable, but I have left it as uncounted because I want to talk about the construction in terms of Level Five.

KISS Level Five: Adding Seven Additional Constructions

        There are only three words in our example that have not been explained -- "members," "one," and "Oh!" All of them can be explained at KISS Level Five. Level Five brings the analysis of almost any text to 100%. Any and every grammar leaks, but KISS Grammar leaks very little. One example, I realize, does not prove that, but that is why the KISS web site includes dozens of analyzed passages from randomly selected real texts. Seven additional constructions will enable students to explain how any word in any sentence is connected to a main subject/verb pattern.
        In our example, "members" is an appositive to "men." "Oh!" is an interjection. Interjections could be taught at Level One. We left the fourth graders' writing analyzed up to 97%, but it would be 99% if we had included interjections. Fourth graders love interjections, and although they might not be able to fully understand the concept, they can certainly learn to recognize the words that they use as interjections. ("Oh," "Golly," Gee.")
        I have left "one" unanalyzed until Level Five in order to introduce an important aspect of the KISS Approach. At Level Five, students learn to identify noun absolutes. A noun absolute is basically a noun plus a gerundive (participle), as in "The children having gone to bed, she was able to study in peace." In the preceding example, the noun absolute functions as an adverb, and most grammar books explain absolutes as primarily adverbial. Some books, however, also note that absolutes can function as nouns. Given that, one of my former students would have argued that in "The first one returned to find the second one smoking," "one smoking" is a noun absolute that functions as the direct object of "to find."  She would have argued that he didn't return "to find the second one." He already knew where the second one was.  What he found was "the second one smoking." Since students have to learn about noun absolutes anyway (because of their adverbial function), why shouldn't we use the concept in cases such as this, where it creates a better fit between the syntactic explanation and the meaning of the sentence! Although I still accept the explanation of "one" as the direct object and "smoking" as a gerundive that modifies it, I wouldn't dare tell this student that she is wrong. She has taken the descriptive syntactic rules of KISS Grammar and made them meaningful. What more could we ask for?
        The preceding description of the KISS Approach should suggest how it differs from the traditional. Its objective is to enable students to analyze and discuss any sentence that they read or write. It is structured such that one level builds on the previous, and it allows alternative explanations. The fact that it uses a limited number of concepts may be considered a drawback, but there is nothing that says that the approach cannot be supplemented by, for example, some work on pronouns and pronoun reference.

The KISS Approach and the Problem of Errors

         The general public (and many English teachers) still think that we should teach grammar primarily to help students avoid "errors."  If you ask these people what an "error" is, they will usually respond with such things as double negatives, comma-splices, pronoun reference, etc. Having seen these errors in the writing of their students, some teachers expect instruction in grammar to help students avoid them. But the traditional approaches to grammar-for-error-avoidance do not work very well. Some teachers blame the students for this, but the problem is more likely in the way that grammar is taught.
        The instruction is incomplete, and the sentences used in the exercises are far simpler than those that our students actually produce. When I was stationed in Italy, I bought a two-cylinder Fiat. A friend was a mechanic, and he taught me all about the engine and how to take care of it. I was proud of myself. Then, when I returned home, my fiancée had purchased our first car -- a 1973 Chevrolet Malibu. I remember thinking about how I would take care of it -- that is, until I popped the hood. I couldn't even find the eight cylinders under the pollution-control devices. Thus ended my career as a mechanic.  The sentences in most textbook exercises are comparable to the two-cylinder Fiat; the sentences our students write are more like the Malibu. Exercise on fixing one does not enable one to fix the other.
        There are, however, still broader questions that are relevant to the problem of errors. Just because there are errors in our students' writing, does that mean that they should be taught how to avoid them? Linguists make a distinction between competence and performance -- we don't always do what we can do. Many students who are entirely competent often simply do not edit their writing. In the case of such performance errors, instruction is useless -- and a frustrating waste of time.  If we really want to help  these students, what we often need to do is to enforce some specific sanctions for the errors.  My own approach is to deduct a point from a paper's grade for each comma-splice, run-on, and fragment. The students can earn these points back by analyzing the relevant sentence(s) and correcting the error(s). If they have trouble doing this, they can come to me for help. The number of students who choose not to try to get the points back surprised me, but it was their choice. Other students have thanked me. The loss of three or four points was enough to make them look at what they were doing. Once they did, they usually realized that it was basically the same error and simple to fix. The point, to repeat, is that "instruction" will not help students with performance errors. Competence, of course, is another question.

Syntax vs. Usage

         In "The Tower of Babel and the Teaching of Grammar: Writing Instruction for a New Century," Amy Martinsen reviews some of the many different things that people mean when they use the term "grammar." Her title is beautiful. Some people use the term "grammar" to mean the unconscious knowledge of the language that is already in a person's head. Other people mean what is in the textbooks. Some people include spelling in the category of grammar; others don't. Martinsen emphasizes the differences between prescriptive and descriptive grammars and, what is even more important when it comes to teaching, the differences between syntax and usage. The previous description of the KISS Levels is about syntax, i.e., how words are meaningfully and grammatically related to each other within a sentence. And, for pedagogical purposes, the concepts and rules needed are not only systematic and surprisingly few in number, but they also have almost no exceptions. In a sense, syntax is comparable to the human skeleton. Just as the bones of the skeleton hold various parts of the body together in specific ways, so the rules of syntax hold together the various words in sentences to produce meaning.
         Whereas the study of syntax can be compared to the study of the human skeleton, the study of usage is more comparable to the study of human clothing. It involves many more concepts, many of which are subjective, and it is not systematic. Usage involves the "Don't" of the rules of etiquette, such as: "Don't say 'Me and him went to the store.'" "Don't use a double negative." ("We haven't got none.") "Don't use a double comparative." ("Gwynn is a more better batter.") and "Don't begin a sentence with 'but.'" In no case that I have ever seen does an error in usage result in misunderstanding, or even in lack of clarity. The rules of usage describe how educated people are expected, by other educated people, to speak and write. They are rules of etiquette. And in some cases, as in the rule about "but," they are themselves erroneous. As teachers, we have no right to force them upon our students outside our classrooms.
         We do have a responsibility to teach rules of usage, but we should teach them for what they are. They are -- at least those that are valid are -- a feature of formal, educated writing and speaking. Our job as teachers is to make students aware of them and to help students see the degree of their validity. One of the problems is that the rules of usage are not, as a whole, systematic, and thus there is no way of creating a systematic approach to teaching them. Here in the middle of Pennsylvania, for example, even the local newspaper leaves out the "to be" after "needs." ("My car needs washed.")  Decisions about what rules of usage should be taught, when, and how must therefore be determined by individual teachers or school systems.
         The distinction between syntax and usage can clarify much of the confusion in the debates about the teaching of grammar. Some teachers claim that "grammar" is not systematic and cannot be taught systematically; others claim that it is, and can be. In most cases, the former are thinking of rules of usage; the latter, of rules of syntax.  The rules of syntax are extremely systematic and admit very few exceptions. One cannot write "The boy bit the dog" and have one's readers think that the boy needed to be treated for a bite. Unlike errors of usage, syntactic errors affect the reader's comprehension of what was written or said. If a student writes

Thrown from the car, he saw her lying on the ground.
and means that "he" was thrown from the car, everything is fine. But if he meant that she was thrown from the car, the sentence does not say that. In the KISS Approach, the rules of syntax are validated by a psycholinguistic model of how the brain processes language. Anything that violates that model, or that causes the process to crash, is an error.  According to the model, a brain would chunk "Thrown from the car" into one unit, and then chunk that unit to the next word that makes sense -- which in this case is "he." This is, of course, close to the traditionalists' discussion of misplaced modifiers, but whereas traditional grammar says "This is the rule because I say so," the KISS Approach says: "This is the model. The model makes sense to your brain. Then according to the model and your brain, the rule has these consequences if you violate it."
        Unlike the rules of usage, the rules of syntax can always be validated in terms of what will happen in the readers' brains. And these rules extend even to such problems as "its" and "it's" and "to" or "too." Consider:
It's raining.   Its raining.
He wanted to go too.  He wanted to go to.
"It's" means "it is," so "It's raining." is a normal sentence easily processed. But "its" means "belonging to it." A reader processes the "Its raining" and expects a verb after it, as in "Its raining made them cancel the picnic." The period therefore causes confusion -- a crash. "To" always raises the expectation "to what?" "Too" never does. A person who reads "He wants to go to" is expecting something such as "to the store," or "to swim." The period thus causes confusion -- either something is missing, or the word is spelled wrong.
        An occasional error may be no big deal, but a paper that is salted with them likely presents pretty barren reading. A reader's brain must use short-term memory not just for processing sentence structure, but also to keep track of the writer's thesis, topic sentences, etc. Just as blood rushes to any wound, the focus of STM shifts to any crash site. If, in the process of reading, one's brain has to deal with a "to" error, then, in essence, STM is invaded by superfluous questions -- "Misspelling?" "Something missing? "What's missing?" When these questions take up slots in a seven-slot STM, something else -- perhaps the writer's thesis? -- is likely to get shoved out. Simply put, the more such errors there are in an essay, the less likely the reader is to get something fruitful out of it.

So What Should We Do About Errors?

         Probably the best way to help students with syntactic errors is to teach students how sentences and punctuation are supposed to work -- and teach them by using real texts, including samples of their own or their peers' writing. We need to keep in mind that many "errors" are really signs of syntactic growth. As sentences become longer and more complicated, simple elements, such as subjects and verbs, become separated by phrases and clauses. These intervening elements often cause the errors.

Subject/Verb Agreement

        In traditional approaches, students are taught, over and over and over again, that "Subjects must agree with their verbs in number." They are then given some simplistic sentences as exercises, sentences which do not help students learn to recognize the subjects and verbs in their own writing.  Students, however, already know the rule (unconsciously, if not consciously). Their problem is not in the rule, but in learning to recognize subjects and verbs. Frequently, working at KISS Level Two, students see and automatically correct these agreement errors. The very act of finding all of the subjects and finite verbs in their writing thus helps many students with subject/verb agreement problems. Some students, it is true, will need to have their attention focused on the problem, but within the KISS Approach, that instruction is beneficial because the students, able to identify their subjects and verbs, can apply the instruction.

Fragments, Comma-splices, and Run-ons

        Fragments, comma-splices, and run-ons are three of the most noticeable and serious errors in many students' writing. Various "fixes" have been proposed for these problems, but none of them work effectively because the sentences in our students' own writing are more complex than those in the examples used in the "fixes." Often, the students' problem is not that they do not understand the "rules," but rather that they cannot untangle the complex clause structure of their own sentences. The ability to identify clauses enables students to understand and fix their problems with these errors, all three of which are "clause-boundary" errors.
        For students who have serious problems with these errors, it will, I should note, take some time before "instruction" transfers into practice. But there are no satisfactory quick fixes. (Many of the fixes that are currently used are unsatisfactory because they result in students writing simpler, "safer," and thus less mature sentences.)  The KISS Approach works because, in the very act of analyzing dozens, if not hundreds, of randomly selected sentences, students see "correct" sentence patterns. Those patterns are also justified by the KISS psycholinguistic model., a model which explains for students why these are, in fact, serious errors. Finally, if students do not automatically fix such errors, the KISS Approach enables them to understand teachers' marginal comments. Currently, when we write "Frag" or "CS" in the margins of papers, how many students know what to do about the error? They can't find the basic elements of their own sentences, so they ignore the comments. Students taught within a KISS Approach, on the other hand, would know that "Frag" means to analyze the sentence to see what parts are missing.

Dangling Modifiers

         In the KISS Approach, the primary rule is that "every" word must be syntactically linked to another word or construction until the links lead to a main subject/verb pattern. Learning to identify verbals includes learning to identify what each links to. As they learn to do this, students do not need to learn the terms "dangling participles" or "misplaced modifiers." Because they have learned how and why sentences work, they will recognize such problems and can be much more easily and effectively taught how to fix them.

        Students who know how sentences and punctuation work, and who can apply that knowledge to their own writing and reading, do not need to know the names of, or to be given examples of, errors. Instead of teaching what is wrong, let's teach what is right. We can do so by enabling our students to identify, and be able to discuss the implications of, a very limited number of grammatical concepts.