Part Four: The Kiss Approach

       Having reviewed a variety of exercises and methods that can be used in any approach to teaching grammar, we can now look more specifically at the KISS Approach. The main difference in KISS Approach is its objective -- enabling students to explain and discuss the syntax of any sentence that they read or write. Because many teachers doubt that such an objective is realistic, Chapter Ten attempts to explain the approach in more detail and to show how and why it is, in fact, realistic. Because many teachers see the objective of instruction in grammar as being the elimination of grammatical errors, Chapter Ten also deals with that question.
       Currently, most teachers feel very uncomfortable about their own ability to analyze sentences. Chapter Eleven, therefore, addresses the important question of the teacher's role in a KISS Approach. It also explains additional types of exercises that teachers can use with students who are learning how to explain every word in any sentence. Chapters Twelve through Sixteen each examine one level of the KISS Approach. Throughout those chapters there are discussions of specific exercises, but a discussion of a KISS exercise can be very lengthy. The exercises in typical grammar books focus on one construction and have a simple answer key with the "right" answers. The objective of the KISS Approach, however, is to evoke complete analysis (of every word) and also relevant discussion of "errors," style, and logic. As will be suggested in Chapter Ten, a KISS exercise can have five "answer keys," each of which evokes numerous points of discussion. Teachers who are interested in such exercises can find many of them on the KISS web site, an invitation to which is the subject of the final chapter.

No Textbooks Needed

       We have, I would suggest, developed a bad habit. Rather than develop our own minds, we prefer to turn to the "experts." I've seen this in my own students who, rather than studying (or even simply using) the list of prepositions which I have given them, prefer to go to grammar books for explanations of prepositional phrases. But the explanations do not help them. Studying five (or even ten) definitions of prepositional phrases will not help a person learn to recognize all (or even most of) the prepositional phrases in real texts. Doing the latter takes practice.
       At the higher KISS levels, going to other textbooks becomes not only a waste of time, but also a major problem. There are, for example, numerous different definitions of "clause," and the more definitions a student reads, the more confused the student will become. Keep It Simple -- Avoid the textbooks.
       KISS Grammar, it should be noted, does not deal with some aspects of grammar, such as the use of the apostrophe or questions of usage. Every English classroom, therefore, should have at least one good text on usage, to be used as a reference. Otherwise, I would like to see all the grammar texts eliminated from the classrooms. Half of the money thus saved should be devoted to literature texts for the library; the other half can go to other areas of the educational budget (including salaries).

Preparation Time

        A high school teacher contacted me and asked what she should tell her colleagues in order to convince them to try the KISS Approach. Specifically, she was interested in "preparation time." Preparing new materials, she observed, can be very time-consuming. In much of what we do as English teachers, that is true, but it is not the case with the KISS Approach. When I started, I made a list of words that function as prepositions, and I made copies of a double-spaced paper written by a student in another course. With them, I went into the classroom. I gave the students an oral definition of "prepositional phrase," and then said "Let's look for these phrases in this paper." And around the room we went. It takes very little time to prepare classroom materials for a KISS approach. Although my personal interest is still literature, I find teaching syntax to be the easiest, most enjoyable, and most rewarding aspect of any course that I have ever taught. Once teachers are relieved of the roles of "the authority" and "the policeman," teaching grammar can be fun.