Reviewer # 4
Review of KISS Grammar (You'll Love It)

Let me start by saying I can't quite identify what kind of book the author wants this to be. As a
teacher, I tend to want one of two types of books. One is an in-depth, well-researched discussion of some burning issue in education I want to explore with a discussion of the theory and background; the other is more of a curriculum-based guide to specific teaching practices. This book tries to do both, but doesn't seem to be efficient at either. The title implies a curricular-based approach, but the organization is for an in-depth analysis of the subject. 1 would totally reorganize the book if the sales were to be aimed at teachers who want curriculum.

First, the introduction opens with a cloze exercise, alludes to the grammar debates, and gives me a
rather murky idea of what KISS is--complete with quotes and criticisms--and five reasons that
teachers will "love" KISS. If teachers haven't used the KISS site before, they wouldn't be clear about what KISS is. The manuscript is written in a rather pedantic style usually considered more suitable for a college textbook. (1 found this true of most of the book.)

I need one or at most two-page introduction that tells me what exactly what KISS is and why my
students will benefit. I don't want to wade through foundational theory or counter arguments to
criticisms. When I pick up this book, I already know there is a grammar debate. Tell me what I'm
holding. Give me bulleted lists. Give me the grade levels you recommend it be used with. Give me
the benefits to my students--what will they be able to do that they can't now using traditional or
current grammar instruction. Make me want to buy this book! (The reason for my passion here is
that KISS sounds like a very good approach to grammar, and I want that to leap from the pages. The intro here is a reasoned, theory-based rationale for KISS, and that's not what I need to know yet.) Dazzle me; don't reason with me!

On a personal note, I was really bothered by the Jesus joke as an opener. First, you will offend
numerous people with it, and it's really unnecessary. Secondly, all teachers have seen a cloze exercise. They don't know what uses the KISS approach takes with them, and all they see in [sic]  a MadLibs exercise. This will confuse them. You need a hook that will grab them!

On a more personal note, I would be SOOO grateful if you would find a new word to use in the
acronym KISS. I have spent my professional life making a classroom a safe place for my students,
policing language for put-downs, negative remarks, and insults. "Stupid" is a word that I do my best to eradicate. How I could introduce a program that uses "stupid" in it stumps me! Even "silly" would be better.

I would also make Chapters One -- Three into appendices or addendum to the KISS material. The in-depth analysis of the theory and of the studies is interesting, but I don't need to read them to use KISS. If I want this support, I'll find it. Just tell me it's at the back and get to the meat of the
program. I'll go to the back and read it if I need to review the evidence or defend its use. Otherwise, tell me what this wonderful program is!

Chapter Four was fascinating. I'm not sure where it belongs, but it is necessary to understand the
chunking aspect of language that is so important to teaching grammar. My only problem is that at
this point in the book, I still don't know what KISS is.

Chapter Five again got too theory-laden for me. I don't need to know the three definitions of the
bases of grammar to use KISS. The author spends a lot of time telling us what KISS is not and how it differs from traditional grammar without ever really telling us what it is. I don't want to read about nexal patterns and ostensive definitions. This chapter should come after you tell me what concrete steps I take with my students to give them the tools to analyze language. Or better, it should be stripped down to a bulleted list of concepts that are essential to understanding KISS.

Chapter Six -- this chapter starts out well. The questions are good ones. (I do think that the response to the standards question is long and too specific. The author could put the specific state standards and his criticism of them in another appendix and help the flow of the chapter.) The author also gives more examples than he needs to -- the discussion of the prepositional phrase examples only slows down the text flow and is meaningless unless the reader understands ellipsed prepositions (and might scare off those who don't -- many teachers don't have a clear grasp of grammar to start with). The questions act like a teaser for KISS, but I still don't know what KISS is. If you want to use the questions, answer them in a lively, straightforward manner. Save the lengthy examples for somewhere else. Note that this chapter doesn't lead into the KISS curriculum; it only leads into an overview of exercises.

Chapters Seven is useful, but I think it would benefit by being rewritten by grade and either
integrated into the KISS curriculum or made into a separate chapter that is referred to in the KISS
curriculum ("Third grade students find felt board houses and felt prepositions that they can place
around the house as they read fascinating -- see chapter X, section Y for more teaching suggestions.").

For each level, make suggestions for implementing these exercises. In other words, how would a third grade teacher modify these exercises? An eighth grade teacher? Could each exercise have a page with bulleted adaptations for use at different levels? Teachers are usually exhausted. To read these and adapt them for nine grade levels is a lot to ask. Even though I find it a great section, I have to stop and think how I'd use it in my classroom. If I'm overwhelmed with test preparation for mandated tests, it's easier to use the grammar workbook provided by the state. Give us more reasons to use this wonderful program by making it easier on us! Also, I don't understand the exercises coming before the curriculum. Tell me what these are for before you give me the extensions. [?]

In Chapter Eight, the author is telling the teachers what to look for and ways to help with recognition, but he has knit two ideas together that I don't understand. The analysis, differentiated by grade, is wonderful, especially with the tips on what to expect from each group, but then we suddenly see modeling -- with many long examples. Why writing analysis of students' writing as a way to see where the students' writing is flows into a discussion of grammar teaching through literature confuses the reader. Teachers need more information like the first half of the chapter. How do I analyze my students' writing? What is the norm? What does it mean when a child is markedly different in various constructions from the others in the same class? How do I remediate that? When is it a sign that there may be something else going on that might need special educational attention? Etc. Again, though, I don't understand why this isn't part of the KISS curriculum discussion. Why we teach what when is fundamental to the KISS program -- which we haven't seen yet.

The teaching and learning through literature modeling really is a totally different matter, and would
seem like it should go with the expanding concepts or exercises section.

Chapter nine suffers from the same problem. KISS should show our students how to analyze language. As they have learned how language functions, they should use it to improve their writing
skills, and that is a wonderful aim (and one of the primary criticisms of the antigrammar forces who
feel that isolated grammar drill does not improve writing). But to give us writing exercises before the program is presented seems premature. This section is also extremely theory-heavy for a classroom teacher who wants a grammar program to support her language arts program. Do I really need to know about Walker Gibson's counter-argument to Christensen's beliefs or Hillock's quote about stepwise regression? The Gibson material is interesting, but presented in a way that is hard to read. This looks like a wonderful place for a chart differentiated by grade level. It's also not clear until the very end that this is intended for the teacher, not the students. How would a teacher apply this in a class? At what level? Why? I still don't know what KISS is.

Chapter 10 and Chapter 11 -- I don't understand the presence of these two chapters, given that the program is detailed in Chapter 12 (and I object to the smoking joke on principle in material for
education). Either Chapter 12 presents KISS effectively or it doesn't. If Chapters 10 and 11 are
supposed to be teacher/adult explanations, why not integrate it into the curriculum description (with
"teaching tips"), or make a separate teacher's manual.

It's not until Chapter 12 that we actually see what the KISS program looks like in a classroom. We've gone through theory, justifications, exercises, games, teaching grammar through literature, improving writing through grammar, overviews, and we are only now seeing what KISS is. It's a wonderful program, one that I'd love to use in my school. But it's buried in the back of the book, and only a determined teacher would persevere this far.

Additional comments:

Addressing the question of language, tone, and style, the author appears to be a very learned man who has a lot to offer in the field of grammar. It would almost be better to have two distinct sections to the book -- curriculum and exercises, and theory and defense. I also have expressed my preference for much briefer discussions -- bulleted lists, more spare language, and less depth in the areas aimed at classroom practices. Save the "academic" discussion for the second half of the book. I certainly don't want to reduce the author's book to a Scholastic 8.5 X11, but overworked and harried teachers need help first and a source for the underpinnings as they have time to read it and/or defend it. The writing style is also (to use a phrase from chapter 9) rather "stuffy," and could use lots of pruning.

I also would want at least some additional exercises in this book. Developing them myself takes lots of time I don't have.

I also found the continual admonishments to consult the website to be jarring and unfortunate. I
would have paid good money for this book. Put everything in it I need, and note that there is a KISS website on the back cover for those interested in pursuing essays, etc. But the continuing
admonishment to go to the website makes me wonder if the author has left out important material
that I need.

Although the KISS approach has much to commend it, I would not be able to understand KISS the way the book is organized. I probably wouldn't read past chapter two. Tell me why my students and I need this program, tell me what the program is, tell me what I need to do to implement it and assess it, and put the rest in the back of the book. I'll read it on a need-to-know basis, and in the mean time, I can teach my kids to analyze their language.

The fact that the author cares very deeply about his work and is very familiar with the field comes
through very clearly. I would rate it publishable with significant revision. The subject is very timely, given the current academic climate, and the approach is simple and logical. I just need a book to match.

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