Reviewer # 1
Review: KISS Grammar (You'll Love It)
I think we desperately need a clear, concise grammar review/approach
for new teachers.
There's probably a market for such a text among practicing teachers
who have questions
about the teaching of grammar that have never been answered by "just
integrate it into
the teaching of writing."
There's a core concept here that could be
very helpful to teachers. As I read
this, that core is to concentrate on a few key concepts and teach those
through writing and
in sufficient depth to be internalized by the student. If my reading
is correct, building a
manuscript around such a core would produce a strong and useful text.
As I've read and re-read this manuscript, I find I have a number of
questions. Let me elaborate those.
* The introduction to the manuscript appears to be a rationale for publication--not
chapter for inclusion in a final book as currently written. For example,
probably love the KISS approach for different reasons" (8) seems to
lead to an argument
for why the book is important. To whom is the argument directed? In
this section, the
author makes a case for how KISS will provide a stronger command of
verbs, prepositional phrases, clauses, or any other grammatical construction
in their own
sentences" but does not--from my reading--convince me of the necessity
identification of sentence parts for improvement of writing.
While the theory-base appears sound, the writing style lacks a conversational
example, on page 2 we find "If I were using this in a classroom, I
would have students
compare and discuss their answers, thereby also raising questions of
vocabulary." If we
look over recently published books by NCTE and Heinemann we find a
to prose. We also find less of the author making statements like this
and, instead, more
direct reference to actual student work that stands as examples.
Finally, there are a couple of items in the introduction
that may be concerns unique to me.
The beginning passage using Jesus and the apostles was fun--but could
offensive to a fair number of readers. Second, the title of this manuscript,
me with the lingering sense that the reader is assumed to be stupid.
NCTE has always
prided itself on valuing and respecting teachers. This title could
be perceived as doing
* I think my overall greatest concern about the manuscript is the ambiguity
I sense in
audience. This affects the entire manuscript as currently written,
but it particularly is
evident in the introductory chapters. Is this intended for classroom
teachers? If so, they
will likely be less excited about the review of the numerous research
studies to point out
their misinterpretations. Instead, this audience will want a clear,
concise rationale for
why the author's approach is a more reasonable one for their use in
the classroom and
then a very rapid movement to exactly what that looks like in a classroom....complete
with age-appropriate student samples.
If the audience is English Education professors, the research review
may be okay, but a
clearer articulation of how those studies actually support this approach
will be needed.
If the audience is college professors, the review of the other students
insufficient (more details are needed) or unnecessary, as they will
likely know the studies
already. For this audience, the articulation of why /how those studies
grammar will be very important.
At this point, I'm not sure who the audience is.
* Part One, page 4 actually begins the text in my mind. I love some
of the points the
author makes here. On page 5 of this section, the author makes a great
"teaching a rule that is ignored by almost every writer." But then
he references that
"even second graders could do a 'research project' on the rules about
'but.'" I have no
idea where this is going or why a second grader would be doing this.
In this same section
the manuscript would be strengthened with current examples of student
work instead of
reference to an analysis of work on papers received "years ago."
I'm really pleased with the emphasis on teacher research the author
weaves in at the end
of this section (Part One, p. 6).
In Chapter 1, p. 3 the author begins to make a case for a limited number
grammatical constructions. Then, instead of telling us exactly what
are and why knowing them will improve a student's writing, we are giving
a bit of
editorializing about what the profession hasn't done and how most grammar
deficient. As I read I found myself straining against the manuscript
and saying "get to
the point!" Tell me what this is all about...." There are some excellent
points in this
chapter. Could we reduce the number of words and move to a less complicated
structure to make those points faster and clearer?
* In Chapter 2, consider whether we need the reviews of other studies.
section be reduced (depending on the author's intended audience) to
get to the KISS
program faster? In most of the reviews of studies I noted both good
points and a need for
more clarity of assumptions the author apparently is making and using
as support for his
On page 15 of this chapter we find "It is possible
to search for--and find--more studies
that support the basic KISS Approach. But perhaps it is time to stop
the nonsense." This
statement stopped my reading. I find the tone really condescending.
What is the
nonsense to which the author refers? How has the KISS approach
been supported thus
far? In my manuscript I noted at the end of this page near the paragraph
"When looked at in detail, all of the research is open to very serious
START HERE. Maybe this is where a version of this book that is intended
should begin. OR, on Chapter 3, p. 1, maybe the paragraph beginning
with "The number
of complex structures which children somehow figure out for themselves
is the place to launch the text? That immediately gets down to facts
the levels of KISS
* As late as Chapter 6, I still made margin notes that indicated my
questions about what
KISS grammar really is. This is far too late in the text for such questions.
I read a great
deal of professional literature. If I have questions like this so late
in the text, classroom
teachers most likely will too.
* Here are a few overview comments.
I really don't like the title. I think KISS is insulting.
I really do like the concept of the book. Give teachers and others the
core of what kids
need to know about grammar, when different concepts could best be introduced,
they could be introduced and reinforced, and rely heavily on actual,
student writing samples.
Include some teacher voices. How is this working
in real classrooms with real kids?
Clarify audience. Who is supposed to read this? Consider simplifying
writing style. Get
to the point faster, use fewer words, argue with yourself (the author)
Define grammatical terms early. The author has made a strong point that
haven't been taught grammar well. Terms like conjunctive adverbs may
definition. It probably goes without saying that terms like nominatives
and absolutes do,
too. And early!
Spend less or no time taking about how the author came into possession
of papers, ideas,
etc. Example (there are lots), chapter 7, 11 "I first become aware
of such diagrams at an
ATEG conference presentation.. ." Who cares about this information?
Maybe make the sections of the book really clear. Section One: Theory
Section Two: Actual exercises. Section: Results (showing how this looks
results occurred in several classrooms).
The conclusion "Commencement?" reads a
bit like the final pages of a dissertation.
Again, who is the audience?