9/24/2014
The KISS Homepage

Commonly Confused, Misspelled Words
Introduction

 General Instructional Material for Students

For a list of exercises, see Level 1.8 -- Vocabulary and Logic. (Currently, this includes only one exercise--on "raise" and "rise.")

Background

       To date (9/6/14), KISS has not included exercises on confusing, misspelled  words. My sense is that relatively few students have problems with them, and those who do usually have problems with different words. Indeed, most of the instructional material that I have seen consists of list of words with explanations, similar to the General Instructional Material for Students (above). That list was originally developed based on the common problems of college students. I have dealt with the problem in different ways over the years. When students made a mistake in an out-of-class paper, I used to deduct ten "hostage" points from the paper. Students could release the hostage (and thus get the points back) by writing (twenty times) the explanations for the words they incorrectly used. Now, I deduct one point per error (up to ten), and the students can get the point(s) back by correcting the error and returning the paper to me before the next paper is due. As usual, some students will lose one point and be in my office the next day to get it back; others will lose ten points an do nothing about them.

For a more complete list and explanations, see:
Paul Briansí Common Errors in English Usage at: http://public.wsu.edu/~brians/errors/errors.html

      One of my favorite memories relates to these words. Many years ago I received a message that the President of the college where I was teaching wanted to see me. As I trudged up the hill to his office, I wondered what trouble I was in this time. As I entered his office, he had a frown on his face. "Ed," he said, "I have received a complaint about your composition course." He handed me the written complaint. It said, "I should of past this course." When I looked up, he had a huge grin on his face. He thought the complaint was hilarious, and simply wanted to share it with me.
     Those of us who teach English know that the student's problem was that he had read very little and spelled words the way they sound. It is, however, our job to try to help these students. The basic KISS Approach does just this with many of the problems. As students regularly identify the subjects, verbs, and prepositional phrases in real sentences, they learn to distinguish "of" and "have," "past" and "passed," "it's" and "its," "there," "their," and "they're," "your," and "you're," and "whose," and "who's." There are, however, many confusing words that, for some students, need special focus.

Creating Special Exercises

      It is, of course, possible to make special exercises on these words, exercises in which students are given ten or more sentences in which the troublesome words have been replaced by blanks that the students are to fill in with the correct word. An easy way to do this is to look up the troublesome words on-line at Merriam Webster. http://www.meriam-webster.com/. If you look up "rise" and "raise," you will find ten very short examples of how each is used. You could take these twenty sentences, replace the forms of "raise" and "rise" with blanks, and mix up the order of the sentences, thereby making an exercise--for personal use. I cannot make such exercises and put them on the site because of copyright.
     I also find such exercises somewhat simplistic. As you may remember, I prefer exercises that derive from real texts. As an example, I made an exercise from George Macdonald's At the Back of the North Wind. Making such exercises is time-consuming. This one took about three hours to complete, but they can be made such that they serve two functions. Students can be asked to fill in the blanks with the correct form--and/or to analyze the sentences. Thus I placed this exercise in "Ideal" Grade Four, where students are studying basic clauses.
     Students who can use computers (for work with texts, not just for play and tweets) can themselves make such exercises, and making exercises is an excellent way of learning. I like to use pdf files from the Internet Archive. My pdf reader has an "Advanced Search" option (under the "Edit" menu). It returns a nice list of hits that are linked to the text, and the list includes a few words that precede or follow the search term. For example, "it rose before him with an awful" and "the rose-bushes, and the." In other words, the list usually lets you see whether a word is used as a noun or a verb, etc. I searched for "rise," "rises," "rose," "risen," "rising," "raise," "raised," and "raising." 
     I copied most of the sentences I found into an MS Word document, "most" because there were way more examples of "rose" than are needed for an exercise. I did not always copy complete sentences. For example, the text states, "Before him, at a considerable distance, rose a lofty ridge of ice, which shot up into fantastic pinnacles and towers and battlements." To keep the focus on the troublesome forms, I just used "Before him, at a considerable distance, rose a lofty ridge of ice." Sometimes, I'll change a pronoun to the noun it refers to in order to make the sentence more related to the full text. And, in some cases, I have to make up a sentence or two. The word "raising" appears only once in the text. (See below.) To get an example, I made up "The North Wind was raising the leaves off the ground and blowing them into Diamondís face."
     Obviously, such a project is time-consuming, but real texts provide better examples than the simple sentences in the dictionary--and than those that my poor imagination can create. I never would have thought of including a sentence in which the subject of "rose" comes after it, as in "Before him, at a considerable distance, rose a lofty ridge of ice."
     Unfortunately, if the exercise is to be used for the word distinctions and for analysis, such searches can be frustrating. Should I have included "But the moment they reached the brow of the rising ground, a gust of wind seized them and blew them down hill." And I was oh so tempted to include:

And they're at it again
praising and praising
such low songs raising
that no one hears them
but the sun who rears them.
As noted above, I put the exercise in the vocabulary section of IG4 because by the time they get to it, fourth graders will have been working on adjectival and adverbial clauses--they will probably be able to explain the functions of almost all of the words in the exercise. But consider:
And they're {at it} again praising and praising such low songs raising [Adv. (result) to "such" that no one hears them (DO) {but the sun) [Adj. to "sun" who rears them (DO) ]]. |
The structure of this sentence is way beyond the analytical zone of proximal development of fourth graders. The clause structure is more complicated, and all the "ing" verbs can be explained in two ways. They can be seen as gerundives that modify "they," and/or as gerunds that function as Nouns Used as Adverbs to "are at it." And even many advanced students would put "rising" in the blank for "raising." That explanation, however, would make "songs" the subject of "rising" instead of the direct object of "raising."
     In sum, creating these exercises for a dual purpose can be complicated and very time-consuming. You are, however, invited to submit exercises--either just FiB or dual purpose. In the exercise, I will put "Contributed by _________." You can tell me what to put in the blank. E-mail them to me at evavra@kissgrammar.org.