KISS Level 1.8. - Vocabulary
KISS primarily focuses on sentence
structure, but its objective is primarily to improve students' thinking
and writing skills. To reach these objectives, words, and particularly
the logic of words, cannot be ignored. You'll note that many of these exercises
are also (or will be) included in the "Practice/Application" booklets.
The first exercise in
each sequence is on "Abstract and Concrete" words. As usual, most
textbooks teach category names rather than how to think. Thus many textbooks,
when they do deal with "abstract" and "concrete," usually suggest that
words belong in one category or the other. But that is not true. Think
about the following list:
"Thing" may well be the most abstract word in our language.
Everything else in the list can be considered a "thing." But not everything
is an animal, so "animal" is more concrete than is "thing." And not all
animals are "mammals," nor are all mammals "cats." The group "cats" includes
lions and tigers, but lions and tigers are excluded in the more concrete
category of "house cats." When we get to "Mysha" (I'll bet you guessed
that "Mysha" is a cat.), we have a word that is as concrete as a word can
be. "Mysha" is (was) the name of our beloved cat.
The first thing we need to note
here is that "abstract/concrete" is a continuum, not a set of two boxes
into which words can simply be put. And an understanding of this continuum
is very important for writers. Student writers in particular tend to write
with words at the top of the continuum. Teachers frequently push students
to include more details or examples, but what is a detail or an example
if it is not a statement about something specific, or, in other words,
more "concrete"? The student who writes that he "likes animals" hasn't
really said anything at all. He needs to move down the continuum to give
some specific examples. The examples, in turn, evoke questions about why?
(Why does he like dogs and not cats?)
Some people have complained
that students who "write more" almost automatically get better grades.
They think that this is unfair. In some cases it might be, but frequently
the student who writes more is demonstrating command of the abstract/concrete
continuum. He or she realizes that to say anything meaningful, one has
to give specific examples. The continuum, however, raises still another
very important question for writers. If one becomes too concrete ("Mysha"?),
readers may not understand what one is writing about. Thus an understanding
of the continuum helps writers think about the level of the examples that
they need to interest their readers.
Still another reason for
including exercises on abstract and concrete words is that they are the
foundation of the KISS approach to logic. That approach is based
on David Hume's logical categories, the first of which is "identity." How
do we identify or define things? Formal definitions begin by placing a
word in a category based on a word in a higher level of its abstract/concrete
continuum. For example, "A hammer is a tool that is used
Ultimately, the abstract/concrete
continuum clarifies the distinction between deductive and inductive thought.
The failure of many of our elite educators to understand this distinction
has led to much abominable (and stupid) teaching. "Don't begin a sentence
with 'But'." That is a deductive (abstract) premise (starting point) that
has no validity, but millions of students have been taught it. If one uses
one's eyes and brain, one will see thousands of "concrete" examples of
sentences, by very well-known writers, that begin with "But."
The second exercise explores
the commonly taught distinction between "common" and "proper"
nouns. This is a subset of the abstract/concrete continuum. Here again,
when they deal with them, most textbooks treat these two categories as
a separate topic that includes two distinct boxes. But all "common" are
nouns abstract. And "proper" nouns are at the extreme "concrete" end of
the abstract/concrete continuum -- they name one specific thing. But many
"common" nouns can also denote one specific thing. For example, "dog" is
generally considered a common noun, but in the sentence "The little dog
barked noisily," "dog" clearly refers to one specific dog. Ultimately,
the distinction between "common" and "proper" is clear if we define "proper"
as names that are typically capitalized, and "common" as nouns that are
not usually capitalized. But in context, common nouns, like proper nouns,
can refer to one specific thing.
The next two exercises,
"Synonyms and Antonyms," are primarily important for vocabulary,
but they too have logical implications. Not only can things be somewhat
defined by their opposites, but thinking about those opposites begins to
raise meaningful questions. In my Freshman literature classes, my students
are asked to think about the works we read in terms of literary "conflicts."
These conflicts are usually stated as antonyms -- "youth/age," "good/evil."
But such antonyms bring us back to abstract/concrete questions: What, more
precisely, does "youth" mean in this story? Or what does "evil" mean in
Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown"? For those who are not so philosophically
or religiously oriented, however, this section simply improves one's vocabulary.
Particularly interesting may be the several exercises based on "Tom Swifties."
They offer very useable (and some absolutely ridiculous) alternatives for
The fifth exercise asks
students to fill in blanks with interesting words. Originally this
was intended to be limited to verbs, but it has been expanded to include
adjectives, adverbs, and nouns. The blanks indicate which part of speech
should be inserted, so this exercise can also reinforce those concepts.
Coming after the exercises on synonyms and antonyms, it may also provide
further exploration of these two concepts, especially if students can share
their versions with their classmates. (Students are not expected to guess
the original words, but rather to make interesting sentences of their own.)
The directions also ask students to identify the prepositional phrases
and S/V/C patterns, but tell students to ignore these -- unless you feel
that your students need more practice.
Exercises seven, eight and
nine are on "Word Families -- prefixes, suffixes, and roots."
Where to put these within the KISS framework is a problem. KISS is primarily
concerned with syntax, the part of grammar that concerns sentence structure.
Word families, on the other hand, are the subject of two other areas of
linguistics -- phonology and morphology --the studies of the sound structures
and intra-word meaning units of language. Whereas the primary KISS premise
is that students need to master basic sentence constructions before they
can understand more complicated ones, the study of word families needs
no such sequential structure. Prefixes, suffixes, and roots can be studied
in any sequence, in dozens of different ways.
My explanation is different from yours.
Why, then, are word-families
included in the KISS sequence? For one, vocabulary is important. But from
the KISS perspective even more important is that word families teach students
how to change words from one part of speech to another. Consider, for example,
the difference between:
My explanation differs from yours.
The first sentence has a weak verb. In the second, the predicate
adjective has been changed into the verb. Simply put, a bigger vocabulary
and the ability to manipulate words have a major affect on students'
ability to manipulate sentence structure.
That still leaves the problem
of fitting word-families into the KISS sequence. In essence, KISS offers
these exercises primarily as a reminder of their importance. Level 1.8
eleven exercises on suffixes, one on prefixes, and
on roots. There are eleven exercises on suffixes because suffixes change
the functions of words, for example from verb ("create") to noun ("creation").
As a result, suffixes help students recognize the part of speech of many
words. The eleven exercises present students with various suffixes that
create nouns, adjectives, verbs, and adverbs.
booklets each include three exercises on suffixes, prefixes, and roots.
After students do KISS Level 1.8, the KISS booklets thus provide students
with only three exercises a year. They should probably do many more than
that. There are, I should note, many other web sites that include instructional
material and exercises on this topic. And, if you are interested, I have
included my original (adapted) version of the exercises from Sadlier. [Click
here to get it.]
For now, most of the exercises
are used across all grade levels. This will probably pose a vocabulary
problem for third and fourth graders, so these exercises may be revised
in the future. Currently, I need to get back to the basic KISS exercises.
The last exercise on "The
Logical Patterns of the Parts of Speech" is Lewis Carroll's famous
"Jabberwocky." This classic selection is Exercise # 8 in
Practice/Application for Level 2 for each complete grade-level book.
# 1 - Abstract/Concrete (in Level 1.8)
and Concrete Words -
Exercises That Were Dropped
# 3 and 4 - Synonyms and Antonyms
# 3 Synonyms (in Level 1.8)
# 4 Antonyms (in Level 1.8)
# 5 FiB with interesting words (in Level 1.8)
# 6 - The Logic of Words and Phrases
7 A - Nouns
7 B - Nouns
7 C - Nouns
7 D - Nouns
7 E - Adjectives
7 F - Adjectives
7 G - Adjectives
7 H - Adjectives
7 I - Verbs
7 J - Verbs
7 K - Adverbs
# 7 Suffixes (in Level 1.8)
# 8 Prefixes (in Level 1.8)
# 9 Roots (in Level 1.8)
Logical Patterns of the Parts of Speech