Saturday, April 18, 2009

We use KISS Grammar: A Review

I wrote a review of KISS Grammar for The Homeschool Library, a forum for homeschoolers.

You do not have to register to see the review. Click on the link to get to the forum, then notice the four tabs to the right of the page: Home, Forums, Reviews, Shopping. Click on Reviews, then on the thread 550.00 Language Arts Curricula Reviews. You'll find the KISS review there, plus some other comments.

I've decided to post it here, too. So here goes (it is a long review):

Review: KISS Grammar

Name of curriculum: KISS Grammar

Common Abbreviation: KISS

Which aspect of LA: Grammar, including punctuation, style, syntax and logic.

Age range of students: From second grade up to high school students.

Educational Philosophy: (choose from the master list ) (Master list was not available.) This program was written to meet a need for grammar instruction rather than from a philosophical perspective. After instruction about a concept, KISS uses classic literature for sentence analysis, which will especially please those who follow a Charlotte Mason and Classical philosophy. I somehow think that those who like what Ruth Beechick advocates would like KISS Grammar, too.

KISS Grammar was written by a college professor who teaches five freshmen English classes each semester. Every semester he works with students who have major problems writing essays because they have major problems with grammar. The author founded Syntax in the Schools, the only national publication dedicated to the teaching of grammar. He edited the journal for fifteen years. His desire is to change the way grammar is taught in this country because the approach now used in schools is not working.

Worldview: Secular. Uses classic, public domain literature.



KISS Grammar is not a traditional grammar program. A traditional approach will focus on grammar constructions such as nouns and verbs, subjects and verbs, verb tense, phrases and so on. Students will learn definitions, rules and see examples and then do exercises written specifically for the topic just studied.

So what is KISS, if not a traditional grammar program? KISS Grammar teaches students how to use a limited number of grammatical constructions (which are learned in a specific sequence) to analyze real texts and their own writing.

The program is divided into five levels:

Level One - The Basics
Level Two - Expanding the Basics
Level Three - Clauses
Level Four - Verbals (Gerunds, Gerundives, and Infinitives)
Level Five - Noun Absolutes and Seven Other Constructions

All students using KISS will progress through these five levels. Students who have previously studied grammar may move rapidly through the lower levels, but all should start at Level One, just to be sure they understand how KISS works.

The five levels are not directly correlated to a year's worth of study. KISS Grammar does require more than one year's study to master (although the author uses the material in one year for college freshmen). Ideally, students should study KISS Grammar spread over five or six years. This allows the student to have plenty of practice with every construction and to work on a wide variety of literature.

As stated above, KISS Grammar will teach students how to analyze sentences. In fact, the main objective of KISS is to enable students to explain how any word in any sentence is connected to the words in a main-clause Subject/Verb/Complement pattern. In other words, students will be able to explain every word in a sentence, which means they will understand why errors are errors.

KISS is also different because it is all available for free from the KISS website. There is hope that the materials may be published some day, but the author promises to use an inexpensive publisher (such as Dover), forgo royalties to keep prices low and keep the material available on the KISS website for free.

KISS Grammar is a work in progress. There is enough material on the website to take a student through all the KISS Levels, but the author is continuing to refine his material.

There are two ways to use KISS Grammar. The first method is "Working Independently" ( This material is available online or printable booklets.
Think of the Working Independently section as teacher resource: it include instructions for the teacher (including the instructions she would give to students) and some exercises, but most students will require more than is provided. The teacher will pull additional sentences from whatever sources they choose.

This is for teachers who wish to have the basics of KISS instruction through the five levels, and who are willing to determine the pace through the levels and create additional exercises as needed.

This can be an ideal way to use KISS for teachers who have the time. They can make sure the progression is the best pace for their students and they can pull sentences from what their students are reading and from their students' own writing for the analysis. The KISS List is available for all users, but can be especially helpful for those using the Working Independently through the KISS Levels booklets for any questions that come up when analyzing texts (including students' own writing).

The second way to use KISS Grammar is through workbooks (also available online and in printable versions).

This is for those teachers who want to be able to open the workbook and go. The workbooks are designed to be about one year's worth of grammar instruction. Currently available are the Second Grade Workbook and the Third Grade Workbook. The Fourth Grade Workbook will be finished soon. This is the most convenient way to use KISS.

The Second and Third Grade Workbooks have been used with success with older students, even middle school students. I recommend that the teacher do the exercises (at least some of them) along with students. When I use KISS Grammar, I print a copy of the student workbook for myself.

How to use KISS Grammar if you have elementary-aged students? The easiest way to use KISS would be to print the Second Grade Workbook and start there. If you have time and want to make exercises from literature the student is reading and his own writing, then use the Working Independently booklets, beginning at Level One.

How to use if you have middle-school students? This is trickier! If your students would not mind stories such as Bunny Rabbit's Diary, then start with the Second Grade Workbook. My girls, ages nine and 11, did not mind these stories for exercises. I did almost all the exercises with them and I didn't mind the stories, either. If I were reading them aloud or we were reading for comprehension, I would not have enjoyed it, but we were analyzing sentences (solving puzzles!) and so Bunny Rabbit's Diary was fine.

If your student wouldn't go for this, then use the Working Independently Booklets.

For high school student, you will probably want to use the Working Independently through KISS Levels booklets.

Note: the author's plan includes printable workbooks for all grades from 2 through 11, with an entry point at each grade. That means that when they are complete, a teacher could start a seventh grader in the seventh grade book at Level One. They would progress as far as possible, and then pick up the next year wherever they are in the Eight Grade workbook.

A quote from the website: The best place to start to learn about KISS Grammar is to take the time to read this: An Introduction to the KISS Levels. Here is the opening paragraph from that document:
The primary objective of KISS is to enable students to identify grammatical constructions such that they can explain the function of every word in every sentence. This will enable them to understand how sentences work, and that will enable them to understand and intelligently discuss the rules of punctuation as well as sophisticated questions of style and logic. To my knowledge, no other instructional materials on grammar even try to reach this objective.

Have you used this curriculum? What levels? Yes, I have used the Second and Third Grade Workbooks.

Strengths: It works. My and I kids enjoy it. Simple to use.
Lessons are short. Constant review. Exercises are interesting. Materials are available online or as printable documents. The printable material is very well laid out, which large margins and pleasant, old fashioned graphics from public domain sources. Author maintains a very low volume list so you can ask him questions directly. The cost is hard to beat! (Materials are free; your cost is your printing expense and the usual items needed, such as a binder to put the workbook in and so on.)

Weaknesses: Expect to take some time to understand the KISS Grammar and the website. Some may perceive the amount of information on the website as a weakness (or perhaps the organization of the material), but there is lots of good information there. Sometimes things are moved around or renamed on the site, but this has never been a problem for me.
If you want an "open and teach" program, this probably won't work for you (although starting with the Second Grade Workbook is very close to "open and teach").


I have been very pleased with KISS.

Our background for comparison: our previous grammar instruction was with Sonlight's Language Arts Program, Rod and Staff and The Hedge School Diagramming Program (, plus the odd resources such as Grammar Songs, Schoolhouse Rock and grammar picture books. I have seriously looked at Shurley English, but we did not use it. I like this better than all those.

I have created an additional yahoo group for those interested in KISS:


P.S. I will update the review if things change on the KISS Grammar website.

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