An Ideal KISS Grammar Curriculum Sequence?

Read, Write, Revise, Analyze
Notes for Teachers

     Writing textbooks often discuss the importance of "invention" in writing. In essence, this means that writers have to have ("invent") things to say. Weak writers often do not have anything to say, and as a result, their sentences are short and simple. They think of an idea --"I live in a house." They then stop and think of what to say next -- "The house is big." They stop and think. "The house is brown." They stop and think. "The house is on a corner." They stop and think. The writer who knows what she wants to say, on the other hand, writes, "I live in a big brown house on a corner." In essence, the hands of weak writers are often waiting for the brain to supply additional ideas, whereas the stronger writer's hand is often racing to keep up with the brain. My example, of course, is simplistic, but I hope it conveys the idea.
     The importance of this idea struck me when I asked my remedial students to read two versions of a tale from Shakespeare, and then write their own versions of the tale, in class, without looking at either of the originals. (All they could use was a list of the characters' names, place names, and dates.) They did very much better than I expected, not only by including details, but also in the sophistication of their sentences. In essence, this type of assignment side-steps the problems of invention, thereby leaving the students hands in the position of having to keep up with their brains -- more gets put into each sentence.

The Assignments

    You may want to do one or more of the following as separate assignments:

1.     Although you may let the students choose their own texts to rewrite, it may be better to have everyone rewrite the same one. The students should read the text, preferably more than once. You may even want to have the class discuss it. Then the students should write their own versions of that text without looking at the original.

2.    As a separate assignment, have them revise what they wrote by adding more details--whole sentences, or just adverbs, adjectives, prepositional phrases, etc. 

3.    Have the students analyze all or part of what they wrote -- for prepositional phrases, S/V/C patterns, etc., depending on the KISS level within which they are working. 

4.    Have the students do a statistical analysis of what they wrote. In grades three and four, this could be:

the average number of words per sentence
the percent of words in prepositional phrases
the percent of words that they can (or cannot) explain.
After grade four, they could calculate what the professional researchers did:
the average number of words per main clause
the average number of subordinate clauses per main clause.
For more on this, see KISS Level 6.5 - Statistical Stylistics and Advanced Analytical Questions.

5.    If time allows, you can have the students work in small groups to check each others' responses and their syntactic analysis of their own writing. This will allow the students to get an informal, subjective sense of how their own writing compares to that of their classmates.

6.   Have the students do another project, this time on something that they themselves write.