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 responses and
questions. Let me elaborate those.

* The introduction to the manuscript appears to be a rationale for publication--not a
chapter for inclusion in a final book as currently written. For example, "Teachers will
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 "subjects and
verbs, prepositional phrases, clauses, or any other grammatical construction in their own
sentences" but does not--from my reading--convince me of the necessity of such
identification of sentence parts for improvement of writing.

While the theory-base appears sound, the writing style lacks a conversational tone. For
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 cleaner approach
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 be equally
offensive to a fair number of readers. Second, the title of this manuscript, KISS, leaves
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 seems either
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 support KISS
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 point about
"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 of
grammatical constructions. Then, instead of telling us exactly what those constructions
are and why knowing them will improve a student's writing, we are giving [sic] a bit of
editorializing about what the profession hasn't done and how most grammar books are
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 sentence
structure to make those points faster and clearer?

* In Chapter 2, consider whether we need the reviews of other studies. Could this
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 beginning
"When looked at in detail, all of the research is open to very serious questions..."
START HERE. Maybe this is where a version of this book that is intended for teachers
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 awesome..."
is the place to launch the text? That immediately gets down to facts the levels of KISS
grammar. [sic]

* 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, how
they could be introduced and reinforced, and rely heavily on actual, age-appropriate
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) less.

Define grammatical terms early. The author has made a strong point that teachers
haven't been taught grammar well. Terms like conjunctive adverbs may need some
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 into practice.
Section Two: Actual exercises. Section: Results (showing how this looks and what
results occurred in several classrooms).

The conclusion "Commencement?" reads a bit like the final pages of a dissertation.
Again, who is the audience?