The KISS Homepage
Plato and Aristotle
School of Athens
Stanza della Signatura
Vatican Palace, Rome
| On the left, Plato, who believed
that philosophers could know the absolute truth, points upward to the world
of forms. Aristotle, on the right, wasn't so sure of that. He points outward,
representing a "middle way"--man should avoid extremes. This difference
between the two is fundamental to an understanding of most of the disagreements
between human beings.
|"The best hypothesis, [Ptolemy] said, was the simplest that would comprehend
--Daniel Boorstin, The Discoverers, 98-99.
In other words, "KISS!"
KISS is unlike any other approach
to teaching grammar that you have ever seen. A major KISS objective is
to Keep It Simple for Students, but there are many ways in which you can
use KISS. As a result, people new to the site are often confused. The purpose
of this page is to give you a general overview of additional options.
|Table of Additional Contents
KISS Psycholinguistic Model
| This model changes the study of grammar from
the study of isolated constructions and a bunch of "don't" rules
to a study of how our brains do process sentences by chunking words
into phrases and phrases into clauses. It thereby explains why "errors"
are (or are not) problems.
Resources on the KISS Site
Short History of the KISS Grammar Site
Do You Want to Start,
and What Are Your Objectives?
There are more paths for teaching grammar than
there are roads to Rome. The path that you will want to take depends on
the age of the students and on what you want them to learn. Currently there
is no standard sequence for teaching grammar. Some people want to start
with first graders; others begin with high school students. Some instructors
are interested only in the correction of errors; others want to apply students'
conscious understanding of grammar to questions of reading and writing--including
style and logic. KISS addresses all of these beginning and ending points,
but in one sequence, it cannot cover the thousands of problems and objectives
that teachers will meet. The descriptions below link to four main curriculum
Whichever design you choose, begin by simply giving
the students the instructional material and an exercise. Whereas the instructional
material in most grammar books takes up almost as much space as the exercises,
in KISS, there are more exercises and shorter instructional material. The
objective is to master one concept at a time. At the beginning, in other
words, students should do as many exercises as it takes them in order to
be able to identify the subjects and verbs in relatively short sentences.
Some teachers and parents like to do an initial exercise with the students.
That is fine, but that section should not be left until the students can
do an exercise almost perfectly on their own. (Most exercises should take
students no more than five minutes to complete.)
Short History of the KISS Grammar Site
A short history of the development of the KISS
website may help explain some of the confusion that many people feel when
they first visit this site. KISS itself was originally developed as a single-semester
grammar course for future (and practicing) teachers. I agreed to teach
that course only if I could teach what I believed students need to know.
The result was a course that fundamentally differs from everything that
teachers are taught.
The primary difference is that most grammar
courses teach definitions of terms (subject, verb, clause, etc.) but they
do not teach students how to identify these constructions in real texts--including
the writing that the students of future teachers will do. As a result,
many English teachers in our schools cannot themselves identify the subjects
and verbs in their students' writing. My students were going to be able
to do that and more. They were going to be able to explain the function
of almost every word in any sentence that they read or wrote. Even for
the best students, the course was too short to reach that objective.
The internet enabled me to develop KISS in
more detail, and if instruction is spread over several years, students
can reach that objective. But a larger time framework brought me back to
the question--in order to be able to identify the function of every word
in any sentence, exactly what do students need to know? Unlike the
exercises in most grammar textbooks, most KISS exercises are based on sentences
from real texts. As I scoured more and more real texts, I ran into a number
of things that we did not devote much time to in my grammar course--various
aspects of passive voice, delayed subjects and sentences, ellipsis in various
forms, especially in infinitives. I needed to collect these and include
them in the instructional design in some organized fashion. As noted above,
the result was the initial "Grade-Level" workbooks. As explained above,
however, the "Grade-Level" books have their disadvantages.
of the Five Basic KISS Levels
The five basic levels of the KISS sequence
originated in my college course for future teachers. Two things guided
the design of these levels: first, some constructions are more difficult
to master than others; second, some constructions cannot be understood
before students have mastered others.
For attentive students who understand that
problems should be solved in steps, the most difficult grammatical constructions
to master are prepositional phrases and the identification of finite verbs.
Both of these simply require basic instructional material
The first day of my college course, I walked into the classroom, gave each
student a copy of an essay written by a college student, gave them instructional
material on prepositional phrases, did a few examples on identifying the
phrases, and assigned the identification of the prepositional phrases in
the student's essay as homework. Thereafter, every assignment included
the identification of prepositional phrases. (For most students, this quickly
becomes easy and automatic.) The next week, we added the identification
of subjects and verbs. In essence, this became KISS Level 1. We went through
KISS Level 2 (the complexities of prepositional phrases and of S/V patterns)
very quickly, simply because we did not have much time.
In the fourth week, we added clauses (KISS
Level 3) and spent several weeks on them. A "clause" is a subject / (finite)
verb / complement pattern. In other words, students built on their ability
to identify subjects, verbs, and prepositional phrases. For a number of
reasons, clauses are the most important construction that students need
to identify. Once most students had a fair command of clauses, we added
verbals--verbs that function as nouns, adjectives, or adverbs (KISS Level
With one exception, KISS Level 5 consists
of constructions that students do not need to understand in order to understand
other constructions. Some of these, like Nouns Used as Adverbs, Interjections,
and Direct Address, are very simple, but within the confines of a sixteen-week
course, I reserved them until the end because I wanted my students to have
more practice with the other constructions.
As noted above, when the KISS sequence is
spread over several years, these constructions can be taught much earlier
in the sequence. If we want students to master some constructions, we need
to give them time to absorb them. Teaching too much too fast will overwhelm
even the best students.