7/4/04
 
The KISS Grammar Workbooks

Creating Directions
for KISS Exercises for Your Students

     When I decided to call this approach to teaching grammar "KISS," I had myself primarily in mind for that last "S." In this case, my stupidity was reflected in my unwillingness to think through how "Directions" should be handled for the KISS identification exercises. Because identification exercises are crucial for the approach, this has probably caused some major problems for which I apologize. At first, I included specific directions for each exercise. When I realized that that was very repetitive, I changed to including a link in each exercise to a specific set of directions for each KISS level. As I continued to use that link, I slowly ("s" can also stand for "slow") began to realize that almost all the exercises themselves can be used at almost any level for different purposes. The "Directions" for any exercise, therefore, should be tied to the KISS Level and objectives toward which the students are working. 
     Students, for example, do not need to be given specific directions for each analytical exercise that they do. If they, for example, are working at KISS Level Two, they can be given one set of directions which can apply to all the exercises they do at that level. In many cases, the same set of directions will apply for an entire year or more. Furthermore, the directions should be determined by their parents or teachers, not by me. My job is to set up a general set of suggestions for creating "directions" for exercises. The following will, I hope, enable you to set up a set of directions which you can give to your students (once) either on paper, or on a bulletin board, and which they can use for every identification exercise until you decide to adjust your objectives.



Directions for Analytical Exercises

KISS Level One:
Adjectives, Adverbs, and Prepositional Phrases

    Note that although the KISS Approach is cumulative, you will probably not want to have students analyze every word in every passage that they work with. Thus, for example, when they are working on adjectives and adverbs, you will probably want them to do the following:
 

Directions for Identifying Adjectives and Adverbs

Draw an arrow from every adjective to the noun or pronoun that it modifies. Draw an arrow from every adverb to the verb, adjective, or adverb that it modifies.

     Once students become proficient at identifying adjectives and adverbs, these directions will not only turn into busywork, but they will also tend to clutter up the further analysis that you want students to be doing. Thus, at some point early in their work, you will want to drop these arrows. You can always discuss specific cases of modification if students have questions.
 

Directions for Identifying Prepositional Phrases

Place parentheses ( ) around each prepositional phrase. Draw an arrow from the preposition to the word that the phrase modifies.

     Here again, once the students become comfortable with the functions of prepositional phrases as adjectives and adverbs, you can omit the drawing of arrows. The parentheses, however, will remain a constant throughout all levels of KISS analysis. If you want students to identify embedded prepositional phrases, direct them to "Draw a line under embedded phrases and the phrases that they are embedded in." Embedding is an important concept, but you do not need to continue having students underline these prepositional phrases. Thus the directions for underlining prepositional phrases should be included only in exercises that are specifically geared to that concept; otherwise, they will destroy the visual impact of underlining subjects and verbs.

Optional Objectives for KISS Level One

      If you want to add Nouns Used as Adverbs, Interjections, and/or  Direct Address to your Level One objectives, simply add the following:
 

Write "NuA" above any nouns that are used as adverbs.
Write "Inj" above any interjections.
Write "DirA" above any examples of direct address. 

Remember that the KISS Approach is cumulative, so once you add these to your set of directions, they should probably remain in them until that point when the students have mastered the concepts so well that the labeling of them has simply become busywork.

KISS Level Two: S/V/C Patterns

   The directions for KISS Level Two are very simple:
 

2. Underline every finite verb twice, its subject(s) once, and label any complements ("PA," "PN," "IO," or "DO").

Note that this direction is always added to that for placing prepositional phrases in parentheses. Students should, in other words, analyze any passage, one sentence at a time, starting by placing parentheses around each prepositional phrase, and only then identifying all the S/V/C patterns in that sentence. If you want students to identify the verbs that are in passive voice, add a direction to label them with a "P" in addition to the underlining. 

Note: When this site was started, html did not allow for double underlining. Thus, in the Analysis Keys, both subjects and finite verbs are underlined once. The subjects are in green; the finite verbs are in blue. See the "The KISS Grammar Toolbox: Codes and Colors for Analysis Keys."
At the risk of being extremely repetitious, I would note here that most approaches to grammar fail precisely because they attempt to teach students what subjects and verbs are, but they rarely even try to enable students to identify the subjects and (finite) verbs in their own writing. Since S/V/C patterns are the core of English sentence structure, students who cannot identify them will have major problems understanding not only how sentences function, but also many of the more complex aspects of English grammar.

KISS Level Three: Clauses

    The basic directions for identification exercises at KISS Level Three should look something like this:
 

Directions:
(Work sentence-by-sentence.)

1. Put parentheses ( ) around each prepositional phrase.
2. Underline subjects once, finite verbs twice, and label complements (PN, PA, IO, DO).
3. Place brackets around each subordinate clause. If the clause functions as a noun, label its function (PN, IO, DO, OP) above the opening bracket. If it functions as an adjective or adverb, draw an arrow from the opening bracket to the word that the clause modifies.
4. Put a vertical line at the end of every main clause.

You can, of course, add to these any of the optional directions from KISS Levels One and/or Two (for nouns used as adverbs, interjections, direct address or passive verbs).

KISS Level Four: Verbals

    The basic directions for identification exercises at KISS Level Four  should be the same as those for Level Three with two items added:
 

5. Put a box around every gerund and gerundive. If it is a gerund (i.e., it functions as a noun) indicate its function over the box. If it is a gerundive, draw an arrow to the word it modifies.
6. Put an oval around every infinitive and indicate (as in three above) its function.

These directions may seem to be too simple and repetitive, but the KISS difference is that students will be using the directions to analyze and discuss real, preferably randomly selected texts, including some from their own writing. As students move through the levels (which will take years), the early steps in the directions become automatic and are easily done, thereby enabling students to focus on the higher level steps. And these higher level steps are most easily understood if the preceding steps have already been done on the sentence that is being analyzed. One student, for example, had a miserable time with the KISS Approach because he refused to identify the S/V/C patterns in a sentence before he looked for the verbals. As a result, he regularly and incorrectly identified parts of finite verb phrases as verbals. Note also that almost every other approach to teaching grammar gives students many more complex definitions of terms, but the students are never enabled to apply those terms to analyze the style and logic of sentences in real texts.

KISS Level Five: Additional Constructions

    The basic directions for identification exercises at KISS Level Five should enable students to explain the function of any word in any English sentence. They might look something like this:
 

Directions for Identification Exercises -- Level 5

(Work sentence-by-sentence.)

1. Put parentheses ( ) around each prepositional phrase.
2. Underline subjects once, finite verbs twice, and label complements (PN, PA, IO, DO).
3. Place brackets around each subordinate clause. If the clause functions as a noun, label its function (PN, IO, DO, OP) above the opening bracket. If it functions as an adjective or adverb, draw an arrow from the opening bracket to the word that the clause modifies. Put a vertical line at the end of every main clause.
4. Put a box around every gerund and gerundive. If it is a gerund (i.e., it functions as a noun) indicate its function over the box. If it is a gerundive, draw an arrow to the word it modifies. Put an oval around every infinitive and indicate (as in three above) its function.
5. Use the following labels for the additional constructions:

NuA -- Noun used as an Adverb
App -- Appositive
Inj  --  Interjection
DirA -- Direct Address
DS -- Delayed Subject
PPA -- Post-Positioned Adjective
Write P above passive verbs.
Put an R before complements that are retained (RDO, RPN, RPA)
NAbs -- Noun Absolute (Put a wavy line under each noun absolute and label its function.)

Note that your students may have already been identifying some of these additional constructions at earlier levels. 


Directions for Sentence-Combining Exercises

   The following directions are standard for KISS sentence-combining exercises. I give them here so that you can use them to create your own exercises without confusing students by changing directions that they may be accustomed to. These are, I should note, the directions that were used for the "Aluminum" passage created by Roy O'Donnell.
 

     Read the passage all the way through. You will notice that the sentences are short and choppy. Study the passage, and then rewrite it in a better way. You may combine sentences, change the order of words, and omit words that are repeated too many times. But try not to leave out any of the information. 

Directions for De-Combining Exercises

     Although textbooks tend to focus on combining exercises, de-combining may be as or more important than combining exercises. Developmental psychologists such as Piaget and Vygotsky claimed that reversibility -- the ability to undo a mental operation -- is a sign of cognitive mastery. More specifically in terms of syntactic maturity, de-combining exercises can help students see the relationships between ellipsed and reduced forms (such as verbals) and the simpler "underlying" sentences. Finally, decombining exercises give students a somewhat different perspective on style since they will find some sentences very difficult to decombine.
     The typical directions for KISS decombining exercises are in the table below, but because some decombining exercises are based on very complex sentences, you may want to modify them. (For example, you could direct students to try to break each sentence in the passage into two sentences.)
 

     Many of the sentences in the following selection are long and complex. Rewrite the passage,  breaking each sentence into as many shorter sentences as you can. Then consider the stylistic differences between the original and your rewritten version.

Directions for KISS Punctuation Exercises

     I have not included many punctuation exercises in the workbooks for the simple reason that they are very easy for anyone to create. Simply select a short text, remove all the punctuation marks, change capital letters to lower case, and give the students the text with the following directions:
 

Directions: The punctuation and capitalization in the following text was lost. Please fix it (right on this page).

These exercises will be most effective if they are followed by a class discussion of various changes that students made, particularly if the students are also shown the punctuation in the original passage.