KISS Level 1. 4. - Coordinating
Conjunctions, Compounds, and Style
The exercises on compounds
are intended to help students identify all the components in a compound.
(You'll find that if you do not reinforce the idea, some students will
find one of several compounds--and stop there.) But because compounding
is an important stylistic aspect of writing, most of these exercises are
intended to provide stylistic models for writing. Their objective is to
nudge students toward giving specific examples in their writing. Instead
of writing "We bought groceries," students should be able to give specifics,
such as E. B. White's"
A bird doesn't have to go to a supermarket
and buy a dozen eggs and a pound of butter and two rolls of paper towels
and a TV dinner and a can of Ajax and a can of tomato juice and a pound
and a half of ground round steak and a can of sliced peaches and two quarts
of fat-free milk and a bottle of stuffed olives.
(See Exercise # 5 from The Trumpet of
the Swan.) The ability to support abstract statements is not just
an aspect of good writing, it is imperative to inductive thinking. Too
many people make general statements, and, if asked for specifics, are unable
to give any.
What Is a "Coordinating" Conjunction?
At some point in their work, students
should learn the name "coordinating conjunctions." But I doubt that they
absolutely need this term when they are working at this KISS Level. Most
grammar textbooks get things backwards -- they teach the term, but students
rarely get the concept. Often, the concept should come first, then the
name. Teaching in this way is relatively simple -- have the students learn
and remember that
"And," "or," and "but" join equal grammatical things.
"Things" here means words or constructions that have the same grammatical
function -- subjects to subjects, verbs to verbs, prepositional phrases
to prepositional phrases, etc.
Some textbooks add "either ... or" and "neither
... nor" to the list, but these are simply emphatic ("either") and negated
("neither") version of "or." "And" and "or" are sweet little words that
always and only behave as coordinating conjunctions.
"But" is the bad boy of the group -- it also
functions (relatively rarely) as an adverb (meaning "approximately") or
as preposition (meaning "except"). For students, this presents a problem.
We tell students that when it means "except," "but" functions as a preposition.
The problem is that it also usually means "except" when it functions as
a conjunction. We can see this best, perhaps, by considering the logical
functions of these words.
The Logic of "And," "Or," and
"And," "or," and "but" are what philosophers
would now call "logical operators" in "whole/part" logical relationships.
"And" joins "parts" into a logical "whole." In "Bill, Toni, and Mary" went
fishing," the "and" creates a "whole" group. Thus we can replace "Bill,
Toni, and Mary" with "They." "Or" divides a group into parts -- "Bill,
Toni, or Mary went fishing." "But" extends this whole/part logical relationship
to imply both a whole and an excepted part of that whole. "Bill and Toni
went fishing, but Mary didn't."
Another way of looking at this is to consider
the compounded subjects as individual sentences:
Bill went fishing, and Toni went fishing, and Mary went fishing.
As noted above, if we form a group from individual parts, we can combine
the sentences and substitute "They" for the subject. If, however, we divide
or separate the parts of the whole, each part has to be named:
They went fishing.
Bill went fishing, or Toni went fishing, or Mary went fishing.
Look at what happens, however, when we use "but" to make an exception to
the implied whole.
Bill, Toni, or Mary went fishing.
"Bill went fishing, and Toni went fishing, but Mary didn't."
The coordinating conjunction has become a preposition.
Everyone but Mary went fishing.
The preceding is important for two reasons.
First, teachers should expect students to have problems with "but," and
they should understand why. Second, the logical relationships discussed
here are fundamental. At the college level, many students study logical
fallacies, either in a composition or in a philosophy course. "And," "or,"
and "but," as noted above, are what philosophers call "logical operators."
They are fundamental for understanding many, if not most, of the logical
fallacies. [For more on this see "The
Logic of Compounding Main Clauses in 'The Yellow Dwarf'."]
"So" and "For" as Coordinating
Some readers may have been taught that "so"
and "for" are also coordinating conjunctions. In KISS, they can be, but
they can also be subordinating conjunctions. Unlike "and," "or," or "but,"
"so" and "for" (when used as conjunctions) imply a cause/effect, not a
part/whole logical relationship. We therefore need to look at "so" and
"for" with the other subordinating conjunctions (such as "because" and
"since") that denote logical connections other than part/whole. This double
perspective on "so" and "for" is the focus of KISS
Level 3.2.2 - "So" and "For" as Conjunctions.
A Brief Overview of the Sequence
The objective of the first
is simply to remind students that in analyzing sentences, they should include
all the parts of a compound. Exercises two through six focus on writing
style. Exercise two and exercise three focus respectively
on compound finite verbs and compound complements because these are the
two parts of a sentence that are most often compounded. Their objective
therefore is to nudge students toward compounding. Exercise four
students to write sentences with compounds. Five is a sentence combining
exercise; six asks students to de-combine. Exercise seven
students with a real-text short passage for analysis. Exercise eight
("Treasure Hunt" and "Creating an Exercise") invite students to explore
texts to find examples of compounding.
If you are pressed for time, you might be
able to skip this sub-level altogether or have the students do just one
exercise on mixed compounds.
("and," "or," and "but")
|Suggested Directions for Analytical Exercises
1. Underline verbs twice, their subjects once, and label complements
(PA, PN, IO, or DO).
Once the students
have started on prepositional phrases, change this to:
1. Place parentheses ( ) around each prepositional
2. Underline verbs twice, their subjects once, and label complements
(PA, PN, IO, or DO).
|Probable Time Required:
It depends on your students. The concept itself
is simple, so as soon as your students start getting all the members of
compounds, move on. (Remember that they should be expected to get all the
compounds in everything that they analyze from this point on.)
You may want to do one or two simple exercises,
then add prepositional phrases to the students' analytical toolbox, and
then come back to these exercises.
|Ex 2 -
Compound Finite Verbs
3 - Compound Complements
4 - Writing Sentences with Compounds
|The same exercise is used in every grade level.
| Write a sentence that has three or more verbs
for one subject. Write another sentence that has four or more complements
for one verb.
6 - Sentence-Decombining
7 - A Passage for Analysis
8 - Treasure Hunt / Creating an Exercise
|The same exercise is used in every grade level.
| Treasure Hunt:
In a story or book that you are reading, find a sentence that has
three or more verbs for one subject. Find a sentence that has three or
more complements for one verb.
Creating an Exercise:
In a story or book that you are reading, find one sentence that has compound
subjects, two sentences that have compound verbs, and two sentences that
have compound complements. Use them to make a mixed exercise (like exercise
# 1). Make an analysis key for the exercise. (You can use the sentences
that you found in the treasure hunt.)