KISS Level 3.1.1. Compound Main
to KISS Level Three
Perhaps the easiest way to introduce the concept
of “clause” is to begin with compound main clauses. Thus far, students
have been focusing on S/V/C patterns and “sentences.” What is the difference
between a “sentence” and a “clause”? A “sentence” ends with a period, question
mark, or exclamation point; a “clause” is an S/V/C pattern and all the
words that chunk to (modify) it. Simple compound main clauses give us a
large supply of examples from which the students can very easily see the
difference. In analyzing sentences in the KISS Approach, we put a vertical
line at the end of each main clause.
1. Once they heard a door bang. |
Somebody scuttered downstairs. |
The first example presents two separate sentences. The second has two main
clauses all within one sentence.
2. Once they heard a door bang, |
somebody scuttered downstairs.|
There are two (and only two) primary types
of clauses. KISS uses the terms "main" and "subordinate." One of the
primary problems in the teaching of grammar is that different textbooks
use different names (usually "independent" and "dependent"), and they use
these names inconsistently. (For more on this, see "Some
Differences between KISS and Traditional Terms," in the Background
Essays for KISS Grammar.) Subordinate clauses primarily function
as nouns, adjectives or adverbs within a main clause.
Your first objective should be to enable students
to identify the main clause “breaks.” From this point on, whenever they
are doing analysis exercises, they should always put a vertical line at
the end of every main clause. (Remember that the main clause is the fundamental
unit of by which we process language. According to our KISS psycholinguistic
model, our brains chunk all the words in a sentence together, in short-term
memory (STM), until we get to a main clause break. At that point, we dump
the main clause into long-term-memory (LTM), and clear STM for the next
Once students can identify main clauses fairly
easily, you really should turn to the logic and punctuation of them. Many
of the punctuation errors that students make involve main clause boundaries.
The students sense that two “sentences” belong together, but the students
have probably not been taught how to use a colon, semicolon, or dash to
punctuate them, as professional writers would.
The standards for using colons, semicolons,
and dashes to separate main clauses are norms, not commandments. Many teachers
have reported being taught to use a semicolon to separate contrasting ideas,
whereas a colon or dash “should” be used to separate main clauses when
the second adds more detailed information to the first. My experience suggests
that these norms are followed approximately 60% of the time for semicolons,
but 90% of the time for colons and dashes. In the other cases, you may
simply find semicolons separating parallel ideas or sentences that do not
seem to have this same/different logical connection. In many cases, one
has to stand back and look at the general logic of the writer’s text. In
many KISS punctuation exercises, students are simply asked to analyze the
text, examine the logic, and then discuss it. Although not all writers
follow the norm, it is important for students to understand it, for two
reasons. First, it will help solve the problems posed by some of their
own punctuation errors; and second, it will help them understand
the logic in the texts of writers who do follow the norm.
The Sub-levels in KISS Level 3
As always in KISS, students study the most
commonly occurring constructions first. KISS Level 3.1.1 should
give students an excellent command of compounded main clauses. Level
3.1.2 introduces the most commonly occurring subordinate clauses --
those that function as nouns, adjectives, or adverbs. In KISS Level
3.1.3, students are introduced to (and taught how to untangle) embedded
clauses (clauses within clauses within clauses). I am unaware of any textbooks
that even discuss this question, and my college students have regularly
been surprised to learn that there can be subordinate clauses within subordinate
clauses. But consider the following sentence from the children's book Mrs.
Piggle-Wiggle's Magic, by Betty MacDonald. (In KISS, we put brackets
around subordinate clauses.)
Mrs. Jones looked at him suspiciously |
but he widened his large blue eyes |
and -- [as he
was only eight years old, a little small for his age and seemed even smaller
in ten-year-old Jan's pajamas, [which
he had swiped the night before [because
he had forgotten [that
he had stuffed his own in the window seat [when
he was cleaning up his half of the room]]]]]
-- Mrs. Jones convinced herself [that
he wasn't fooling] and let him go out
to play. |
That sentence contains three main clauses and six subordinate clauses.
And note the five closing brackets after "room." Those subordinate clauses
are stacked five deep. And by the time they have mastered KISS Level 3.1.3,
students should be able to identify every one of them!
You may have wondered why, Level 3
has been divided into two printable books. The assumption is that each
printable book includes approximately a year's worth of study. Currently,
many English teachers cannot identify the basic clauses in sentences, and
clauses, as noted above, are probably the most important grammatical construction
that students need to master. (Note that I wrote "master" and not "be taught."
Learning the definitions and types of subordinate clauses is fairly easy.
Developing the ability to identify them in any sentence takes time and
practice, especially if you want to include the exercises on punctuation,
style and logic.)
Once students have mastered the basics of clauses,
Level 3.2 deals with the most frequent "complications." For example,
3.2.1 deals with ellipsis in clauses and with semi-reduced clauses,
something that you will probably not find in most grammar textbooks. Consider
the sentence, "When home, he is a very good father." Thoughtful students
who have mastered KISS Level 3.1 will probably see on their own that the
sentence means "When *he is* home, he is . . . ." Other students, however,
will benefit by exercises that focus on this type of ellipsis. Other sections
of KISS Level 3.2 explain KISS definitions of terms. Some grammars, for
example, claim that "for" is a coordinating conjunction and some claim
that it is subordinating. KISS Level 3.2.2 explains why in KISS, both "so"
and "for" can be explained as either coordinating or subordinating conjunctions,
depending on how and where they are used.
Although KISS Level 3.2 will enable students
to explain about 99% of the clauses they run across in randomly selected
texts, there are some functions of clauses that are not covered here for
the simple reason that they function as constructions that are introduced
in KISS Level Five (such as Delayed Subjects and Appositives). When students
get to these constructions, they should have little, if any, trouble in
understanding the functions of these clauses.
KISS Level 3.1.1
Section 3.1.1 consists
of five types of exercises, all based on compound main clauses (with
few, if any, subordinate clauses). The objective of the first type
(four exercises) is to have students identify the main clauses in compound
sentences. The following type (two exercises) focuses on the logic
and punctuation of main clauses. The third (a single exercise) asks
students to combine sentences to create compound main clauses. The fourth
is a treasure hunt, and the fifth asks students to write compound
sentences by using a dash, colon, or semicolon.
Suggested Directions for Analytical Exercises
1. Place parentheses ( ) around each prepositional phrase.
2. Underline finite verbs twice, their subjects once, and label complements
("PA," "PN," "IO," or "DO").
3. Place a vertical line after each main clause.
Probable Time Required: Nine
1 (a - d) Identification
| The first four exercises in each book focus
simply on identifying main clauses. The exercises desiganted as "G3" were
developed before the new, more systematic format of the KISS complete
books. You may, however, want to try to use them to see how well third
graders can grasp the basic concept.
of Robin Hood Told to the Children, by Henrietta Elizabeth Marshall
2 (a and b)
The Punctuation and Logic of
| There is a fundamental question that
should be asked -- and rarely, if ever is. Why do we compound main clauses
in the first place? Perhaps every other type of compounding makes sense
in that it saves words. For example, "Bill and Bob went to the store."
The compound subject is much shorter than "Bill went to the store. And
Bob went to the store." Compounding main clauses, however, sometimes makes
sentences longer-- "Bill went to the store, and he saw Sally." In cases
like this, we might say that the repetition of the subject emphasizes it,
but that explanation will not apply to compounds such as "Bill went fishing,
and Bob went golfing."
Although some people may consider this a silly
question, it may be very important if we are interested in the logic and
texture of written words. What is the logic behind combining some main
clauses with "and," "or" or "but," and not combining others? Among other
things, the exploration of this question may help students better understand
the same vs. different logic that is often implied by colons, semicolons,
in Semicolons: From Rudyard Kipling's
This is not just a study in correctness
or the rules, but an exploration of how Kipling's text supports or violates
those rules. My guess is that most students will finish in about ten minutes,
but discussion may take a whole class period to explore what is similar
and what is different in the clauses that Kipling joins with semicolons.
This is, in other words, a fundamental exercise in logic as well as in
3 - Syntax and Logic - Compounding Main Clauses
| Students are given compound sentences from
which the punctuation and capitalization have been removed. They are asked
to "fix" them and then discuss why they did what they did, and to compare
their versions to the originals.
In IG 5-12
4 - Treasure Hunt (and/or Recipe Roster)
The same exercise is used at every grade level:
In IG 5-12
| Treasure Hunt
(and/or Recipe Roster): Find and bring to class (and/or write) a sentence
that has compound main clauses.
Creating an Exercise: In a story or
book that you like, find five sentences that have compound main clauses.
For your classmates, make an exercise with them; for your teacher, make
an analysis key. (Remember that your teacher may use your exercise in future