The KISS Homepage
Last Revised: July 18, 2015

 
     This is a plan for a more comprehensive curriculum sequence for grammar, reading, and writing for grades one to twelve. The first grade book(s) are now complete and in printable format.  The tentative plan for the other grades is now somewhat complete. Some of the exercises have been put in; others are ready but it will take time to put them in. Obviously, things may be moved, added or deleted. I thank you for your patience.
--Ed Vavra
The study of grammar is a science.
The teaching of grammar is an art.

An Ideal Sequence for KISS across Grade Levels

Contents

Introduction
Objectives by Year
What This "Ideal Sequence" Is
Why KISS?
Time Required
The Types of Exercises

Introduction

    Although the organization of these books is currently only sketched out, by the end of ninth grade, students will have been introduced to almost everything they need to know in order to intelligently discuss the function of almost every word in any sentence. We need to remember, however, that our writing naturally becomes more complex as we age. Being able to identify a construction in a simple sentence is not the same as being able to identify it in more complex sentences. Consider the following two sentences in which gerunds are used as subjects:

Playing baseball is fun.

Since we're deep in the ocean, being inside this boat is vastly preferable to being above it or below it!

The first sentence is common to the oral language of young children. The second sentence is from Jules Verne's Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. In an exercise on identifying gerunds, most middle-school students will not have much trouble with the first sentence, but in analyzing a text, the second sentence presents more of a problem. The point here is that students will still need some practice in later grades in order to be able to untangle the more complicated sentences of adult writing and reading. The work in later grades also includes numerous studies in style.
     Because this is a multi-year, cumulative sequence, you might want to get a copy of "The Teachers' Reference to KISS Grammar Constructions, Codes, and Color Keys." It is an MS Word document. Click here to get it. If you cannot open MS Word documents, click here for how to get an MSDoc reader or OpenOffice.

A Note about the Printable Books

      There will be two printable books for each year, one for students, and one for teachers. The students' books will include instructional materials and the exercises. The teachers' book will include analysis keys for the exercises, suggestions for teaching, and the assessment tests (which will not be in the students' books). 


Objectives by Year
Compared to the Common Core, KISS gives clearer objectives,
real standards,
--and how to get to the objectives and meet the standards.

     Twelve books, of course, suggest the twelve years of school. Originally they were named by grade (Grade One, etc.) Some users suggested that such naming caused a problem. They were, for example, starting with third graders, and third graders did not appreciate having to use a book for first graders. Several suggestions were made for changing the names, but ultimately I decided on "Book."
     The books are limited to sixty exercises that are directly related to grammar. These should suffice. The books, however, include additional exercises on writing, spelling, etc. The early grades also include supplemental books that teachers can use as alternative or supplemental exercises.
     The following links will take you to a description of the objectives for each book. There you will also find a link to an html page on each book and links to the MSWord versions of the books. 
B1 B2 B3 B4 B5 B6 B7 B8 B9 B10 B11 B12

Each of the books will include:

an initial assessment of the previous year's work and review exercises (If the assessment results are good, the review exercises can be skipped.);

analysis and style exercises based on grade-appropriate real texts, including the writing of their peers;

a heavy focus on "chunking"--words combined into phrases;

exercises on punctuation;

some exercises that include entire short texts;

writing assignments that include more (or less) focus on style; 

a grade-appropriate play that can be used not only to explore the differences between oral and written language, but also to perform and/or to discuss as a literary work; 

statistical studies (beginning in third grade); and

suggested mid-term and final assessment exams.
 
Book 1 MS Word: Students' Workbook Teachers' Guide
Supplemental: Students' Workbook Teachers' Guide
Objectives
Identification
Basic sentence vs. phrase, capitalization, punctuation;
subjects, their verbs;
"You" as an understood subject;
"There" as a Subject (Expletives, KISS Level 2.1.3);
simple complements (predicate nouns, predicate adjectives, indirect and direct objects) as complements;
compounds, adjectives, adverbs, prepositional phrases;
and apostrophes in contractions and to show possession.
Writing
reading, copying and simple writing assignments; supplemental spelling exercises
Don't forget the
"The Teachers' Reference to KISS Grammar Constructions, Codes, and Color Keys."

The following, of course, are tentative.

Book 2 MS Word: Students' Workbook Teachers' Guide
Reader
Supplemental:
Students' Workbook Teachers' Guide
Objectives
Identification
Distinguishing the types of complements ("PN," "PA," "IO," "DO") (KISS Level 1.3)

Verbs as Subjects and Complements (KISS Level 1.3, Ex. 7) [Intro to simple verbals]

Interjections, Direct Address, and Nouns Used as Adverbs (KISS Level 2.3)
These are three very simple constructions that appear frequently in the reading of first and second graders: Oh, Billy, Tuesday we have a test!

Complexities in S/V/C Patterns and Prepositional Phrases (KISS Level 2.2.1)

Prepositional Phrases as Indirect Objects (KISS Level 1.5, Ex. 4)

Embedded Prepositional Phrases

Compound Main Clauses

Capitalization and Punctuation:
End of sentence punctuation
Chunking and Modification: 
the Functions of Adjectives, Adverbs and Prepositional Phrases [Add a Psycholinguistic Model]
Writing and Style
Writing Sentences and adding Adjectives and Adverbs (Level 1.2, Ex. 5)
Compounding (Level 1.4, Ex. 7)
Reading, copying and simple writing assignments; supplemental spelling exercises
Book 3 MS Word: Students' Workbook Teachers' Guide
Objectives
Major Review:
Helping Verbs
Complexities in S/V/C patterns and prepositional phrases
Compound Main Clauses
Identification
Subordinate Clauses as Direct Objects (KISS Level 3.1.2, DO, Ex. 1)
Intro to Number and Case
Distinguishing Finite Verbs from Verbals (KISS Level 2.1.6)
Vocabulary
Abstract and Concrete Words
Synonyms and Antonyms
FiB with Interesting Verbs
Logic
The Logic of Adjectives and Adverbs (KISS Level 1.2, Ex. 11)
The Logic of Prepositional Phrases (KISS Level 1.5, Ex.10)
Punctuation:
Quotation Marks to indicate words that are spoken (Level 1.7, Ex. 8)
Statistical Stylistics (Level 6.5)
The number of words and the number of prepositional phrases per sentence
Book 4 MS Word: Students' Workbook Teachers' Guide
Objectives
Major Review:
Distinguishing Finite Verbs from Verbals (KISS Level 2.1.6)
Person, Number, Case, and Tense
Identification
Intro to Person and Tense

Pronouns as Predicate Nouns (KISS Level 1.6, Ex. 7b)

Palimpsest Patterns (KISS Level 2.1.4)

Subordinate Clauses [Noun, Adjectival, and Adverbial] (KISS Level 3.1.2)

Quotations as Direct Objects (KISS Level 3.1.2, Ex. 2)

Intro to embedded subordinate clauses

Writing with Style and Logic
Sentence Combining and Style (Level 1.4, Ex. 7)

The Logic of Clauses

Statistical Stylistics
Comparing Two Texts (KISS Level 6.2)
A Writing Assignment - Comparing the Two Texts 

Analyzing My Own Writing (Read, Write, Revise, Analyze)

The number of words and the number of prepositional phrases per main clause

Book 5 MS Word: Students' Workbook Teachers' Guide
Objectives
Major Review:
Subordinate Clauses [Noun, Adjectival, and Adverbial]
Subordinate Clauses as Delayed Subjects
Embedded subordinate clauses
Identification
Predicate Adjective or Part of the Verb? (KISS Level 1.3, Ex.8)

Subordinate Clauses as Delayed Subjects

Subordinate Clauses as Interjections (KISS Level 3.2.3, Ex. 2)

"So" and "For" as Conjunctions (Level 3.2.2)

Writing with Style and Logic
Prozeugma: Ellipsis in S/V/C Patterns (Level 3.2.1, Ex. 1)

Parallel Constructions (L3.1.2, Mixed, Ex. 5 and 6)

Embedded Subordinate Clauses

The Logic of Clauses

Editing a Peer's Writing

Statistical Stylistics
The number of words and the number of subordinate clauses per main clause
Book 6 MS Word: Students' Workbook Teachers' Guide
Objectives
 Major Review
Untangling Embedded Subordinate Clauses
The Logic of Clauses
Identification
An Introduction to Passive Voice (Level 5.7)

Retained Complements after the Passive Voice

An Introduction to Appositives (KISS Level 5.4, Ex. 1) and Post-Positioned Adjectives (KISS Level 5.5, Ex. 1)

Identifying the Three Types of Verbals (Gerunds, Gerundives, Infinitives) (KISS Level 4.1, Ex. 1)

Writing with Style and Logic
Semicolons, Colons, and Dashes to join main clauses

Editing a Peer's Writing

Additional Writing Assignments
Narrative, Spatial, and Natural Division
Statistical Stylistics
Two Sixth Grade Essays about Fires

The number of words and the number of subordinate clauses per main clause

Book 7 MS Word: Students' Workbook Teachers' Guide
Objectives
Review
Mixed Verbals
Appositives and Post-Positioned Adjectives
Passive Voice
Identification
Passive Voice and "To be to"

Delayed Subjects and Sentences

Writing with Style and Logic
Major focus on the combining and logic of subordinate clauses

Semicolons and comparison/contrast paragraphs (KISS Level 6.6)

Editing a Peer's Writing

Fallacies--Attacking the Person, Prejudicial Language, Appeal to Popularity

Statistical Stylistics
The number of words and the number of subordinate clauses per main clause
Book 8 MS Word: Students' Workbook Teachers' Guide
Objectives
Review
Mixed Verbals, The Logic of Clauses, Embedded Subordinate Clauses, Delayed Subjects and Sentences
Identification
Elaborated  Appositives

An Introduction to Noun Absolutes

Writing with Style and Logic
Continues the major focus on the combining and logic of subordinate clauses

Studies in Punctuation

Editing a Peer's Writing

The logic of colons, semicolons, and dashes

Semicolons and comparison/contrast paragraphs

Studies in the Passive Voice

Fallacies--Appeal to Pity, Authority Fallacy, Anonymous Authority

Statistical Stylistics
The number of words and the number of subordinate clauses per main clause
Book 9 MS Word: Students' Workbook Teachers' Guide
Objectives
Review
Verbals
Elaborated  Appositives
Noun Absolutes
Identification
Other Constructions as Appositives

Noun Absolutes that function as nouns

Writing with Style and Logic
Studies in Punctuation

Editing a Peer's Writing

The logic of colons, semicolons, and dashes

Studies in the Passive Voice

Fallacies--Appeal to Consequences, False Dilemma, False Analogy

Statistical Stylistics
The number of words and the number of subordinate clauses per main clause
Book 10 MS Word: Students' Workbook Teachers' Guide
Objectives
Review
Other Constructions as Appositives
Noun Absolutes that function as nouns
Identification
There are no more constructions that the students need to master. From here on, it is all style and logic.
Writing with Style and Logic
Writing Research Papers

Studies in Punctuation

Editing a Peer's Writing

The logic of colons, semicolons, and dashes

Studies in the Passive Voice

Fallacies--Straw Man, Complex Question, Argument from Ignorance

Literature and Writing

Statistical Stylistics
The number of words and the number of subordinate clauses per main clause
Book 11 MS Word: Students' Workbook Teachers' Guide
Objectives
Review
Writing Research Papers
Writing with Style and Logic
Studies in Punctuation

Editing a Peer's Writing

The logic of colons, semicolons, and dashes

Studies in the Passive Voice

Fallacies--Style over Substance, Slippery Slope, Inductive Fallacies

Statistical Stylistics
The number of words and the number of subordinate clauses per main clause
Read, Write, Revise, Analyze
Book 12 MS Word: Students' Workbook Teachers' Guide
Objectives
Writing with Style and Logic
Studies in Punctuation

Editing a Peer's Writing

The logic of colons, semicolons, and dashes

Studies in the Passive Voice

Fallacies--Begging the Question, Causal Fallacies, Nirvana Fallacy

Statistical Stylistics
The number of words and the number of subordinate clauses per main clause

What This "Ideal Sequence" Is

     This sequence is a suggested curriculum plan for teaching grammar and improving literacy, especially reading and writing skills. It needs feedback, especially from classroom teachers, and, ultimately, classroom teachers (working together across grade levels) should have the final say in their curriculum plan. 
     Ideally, grammar assignments should be based on works that the students are reading, but different works are read in different schools. Some of both the analysis and the writing assignments should be easily adapted to other works, and, ideally, teachers (or students) could make relevant grammar assignments (on clauses, appositives, etc.) based on other works so that teachers could use them in future years.

     Perhaps the most important aspect of KISS is the sequence of instruction. More than one fourth grade teacher, for example, has written to me seeking help in teaching subordinate clauses. Most students, they say, cannot understand clauses. I understand the teachers' problem--neither can my college students, but the fundamental problem is that a clause is based on a subject/(finite) verb pattern. Students who cannot identify the subjects and finite verbs in what they read and write will have major problems understanding clauses. In most cases, it is very important that students master the ability to identify one construction (automatically, and in randomly selected sentences) before they add others. Exceptions to this are noted in the Teachers' Guides for each book. 

     One final group of comments here. Some people are going to say that this sequence is overly ambitious--our students will not be able to master it. Those who say this are stuck in the Grandgrind vision of the nineteenth century--teach and learn the "facts." What they really mean is isolated facts. In The Unschooled Mind: How Children Think and How Schools Should Teach, Howard Gardner argues that we should be teaching for "understanding," not just facts. John Gatto, in much of his work, has argued that if we teach students to think (and not just memorize) students will do a lot more than we currently think that they are capable of. In Finnish Lessons, Pasi Sahlberg claims that a large part of what resulted in Finland becoming an educational model is that their curriculum plans focus on cognitive understanding. As a result, he includes a section on "Less is More." (In some respects, by the way, this is the KISS principle.) Last but not least, much has been done about what we know about cognitive learning. Victor Benassi and his colleagues believe that these new insights are so important that they put a good book about it on the web for free. (And it is really "free." Like the KISS site, you can get it without signing in or anything else.) It's called Applying Science of Learning in Education: Infusing Psychological Science into the Curriculum (2014) [The free pdf is available at: http://teachpsych.org/ebooks/asle2014/index.php ]
     The question of students with learning disabilities has also been brought up. I do not know much about this, but from what I have heard, such students benefit by well-structured, sequential instructional plans. (Years ago I was told that a school for the deaf was finding the KISS Approach very helpful.) I am hoping to hear from specialists in this area, but first KISS has to be brought to their attention.
     The point of the preceding paragraphs is that if we teach students to understand and be able to intelligently discuss what they are learning, students can learn a lot more in a lot less time.

Why KISS?

     The lack of standards and coordination from K to 12 in our public schools severely hurts students. Skills build upon skills, but no public school teacher can currently assume that her or his students can, for example, identify the subjects and verbs in their sentences--and thus build from there.
     Note that unlike the Common Core, this proposed sequence can be considered a set of clear standards, standards that parents, teachers, and students could all understand. In addition, unlike the Common Core's vague objectives, these standards could easily and accurately be assessed. I strongly suggest that at least twice each year, starting in third grade, students should statistically analyze a short selection of their own (or others') writing, using the concepts they have already studied. KISS integrates English and math.

Time Required

"Homework"

     Most of the analytical exercises should take students no more than ten minutes, usually no more than five. If it takes longer, the student is probably not working systematically. I've had a student tell me that he spent three hours on a short exercise on prepositional phrases. It turned out, however, that instead of using the given instructional material and following the directions, he spent a fair part of that time looking for more information about prepositional phrases. In addition, he did not work systematically. The directions for each exercise are numbered, and you should encourage students to follow them, working one sentence at a time. Students who do this usually "get it" without much time or effort. Other students mark a subject in one sentence, a verb in another, and wander about aimlessly. Among other things, KISS should teach students not only how to work systematically, but also the rewards of doing so. ("Homework" is in quotation marks because the exercises can also be done in class. I am, however, a firm believer in homework.)

In-class

     My estimates for time required in class are usually double the homework time, but that all depends on the teacher and students. Teachers may simply want to put the analysis key on an overhead (or computer projector) and let the students check their own. The teacher would only have to answer questions. Having individual students give their analysis takes longer, and if you want to occasionally spend an enjoyable entire class period, you can review an exercise by having the students play the KISS Grammar Game.
     Teachers should NEVER collect and grade homework unless they want to do a spot check and assign only two sentences from an exercise.


The Types of Exercises
Punctuation

     Various exercises on punctuation and capitalization are spread across every grade level. The most interesting of these consist of short passages from real texts from which the capitalization and punctuation have been stripped. Students are asked to "fix" it. In class they can discuss their different versions and compare them to the original.

Vocabulary

     The best way to improve students' vocabulary is to have them read, read, read. Currently, of course, most of them do not do that. (Interestingly, in Finnish Lessons, Pasi Sahlberg notes that Fins have always loved to read. He's worried that younger people are reading less.) Teaching vocabulary is itself a complex question, but for now, the planned "Vocabulary" sections include exercises on synonyms, antonyms, fill-in-the-blanks with interesting verbs, abstract and concrete words, and word families--prefixes, suffixes, and roots.

Statistical Studies

     Starting in third grade, there are two statistical projects per year, one a semester. The first project gives students two versions of the same text (or of related texts) for statistical analysis. The second also invites students to make a statistical study of two texts, but these are usually by two students of the same grade level. Both projects are followed by an invitation to the students to make a statistical analysis of something that they themselves wrote. My experience has been that students like these statistical projects, especially when they are analyzing their own writing. Because this section is based on samples of students' writing, it also includes at least one paper written by a student that can be used as an "editing" assignment. 

Writing Assignments

     You will find writing assignments scattered through all the grade levels in relation to grammar assignments. The "Focus on Style" sections that begin in grade one focus on writing at the sentence level. The projects related to plays in each grade level can include a writing assignment. The two statistical projects each year (that begin in grade three) both can be extended to writing. Students can write about what they found. From sixth grade on, there is a comparison/contrast project that can include a writing assignment. The "Writing a Research Paper" projects begin in grade ten.
     For those of you who do not know, for almost forty years I have taught Freshman Composition at the college level. From my perspective, in addition to problems with vocabulary and sentence structure, the primary problems of weak writers are details and organization.
     Starting in grade two, there is a "Literature and Writing" project. I love these for a number of reasons. [See the "The KISS Approach to Teaching Writing."] This "Ideal?" sequence allows me to consider students general mental development as well as their natural syntactic development. And, since teaching writing has been my career, I've added "Additional Writing Assignments" starting in grade three. These start out with simple narratives (organized by time.) Spatial organization is added in grade five, and "natural division" in grade six. "Natural division" is a broader concept that includes the somewhat standard "five-paragraph essay." Teachers have been arguing about the "5pe" for decades, usually on a poor either/or basis. In KISS, the basic level is a four to six paragraph essay. (Not every idea fits into three body paragraphs.) In grade nine, sub-divisions of main points are added to the organization. Some teachers, again with an either/or mindset, argue that teaching such organization shackles the students. My view is that not teaching it cuts off the students' legs. As with grammar in KISS, students will be given published essays to read in which they can see for themselves how professionals use--and go beyond--these basic formats.


Thank you for considering KISS!