KISS Grammar: What it is and How we use it

Dear Reader,

I mentioned in another post that we use KISS Grammar. This is a free curriculum one can access online, but it tends to generate a lot of confusion initially so I thought I would give a little info on it.

KISS was (and actually still is being) developed by a professor, Ed Vavra, who was unhappy with his students’ understanding of English grammar. It takes a very functional approach. In contrast to most grammars, it does not start by introducing parts of speech. Rather, it looks at every item in a sentence based on how it is used. This is an important distinction as English often uses words in different ways. For example, nouns may be used adverbally as in the sentence “One day he went to the zoo.” “Day” here is being used abverbally to tell when he went.

Other aspects of KISS that I like are that it can be used for many ages at once and that it can be done in just a few minutes a day. There is not a lot of busy work (unless you want there to be I suppose). We introduce a concept and then look at a few sentences using it. Sometimes we just take a sentence or two we have read and see what we can make of them. KISS uses sentences from real books. One may not always have the skills to explain all parts of a sentence, but that is okay.

A lot of the confusion regarding KISS seems to come from how the website is laid out. Really, though, it is not that tough. There are six levels, some of which have sublevels. Not all of these have been produced online yet. But if you were beginning, you would do level 1, then 2, then 3.1, then 3.2, and then 4 (that is what is currently available). There are books available for different grade levels but not all grades are available yet. So, for instance, for level 1, you could choose the book for 2nd, 3rd or 6th graders. If you have a 4th grader, you would probably choose to use the 3rd garde level. If you have a ninth grader, they can still do the 6th grade level. The grade levels here are not hugely important, and, honestly, I don’t think there are big variations between them. If you have your 2nd grader in level 1 this year, next year they would do level 2 for third graders, not do level 1 again at the 3rd grade level. You always move forward through the levels. Everyone should start at level 1 and then go on to 2 and so on. The different grade level books are more like guidelines. Just pick the one available that is closest to your child’s grade in school.

We use KISS a couple of times a week. If we have come to a new concept, I will explain that to the kids. Then we go through a sentence or two together. Usually I write them on a dry erase board so we can all see it. Depending on the time, I may or may not give each child a sentence to analyze. Even the youngest (mine being now 7 and 8) can learn to find subjects, predicates, and prepositional phrases. It is okay if we cannot figure out everything in a sentence. Because we use real sentences, not ones made for a certain workbook, there will sometimes be parts that we just don’t know what to do with yet. The kids aren’t always happy to not be able to deal with everything, but I think it is probably good for the soul to have to say we just don’t know that yet. So really I’d say we spend less than 20 monutes per week on grammar, often closer to 10, and yet I do feel like my children are getting what they need in this area without a lot of the busywork that so often seems to accompany this subject.


7 responses to this post.

  1. […] ideas for KISS Grammar: What it is and How we use it at Letters from […]


  2. […] each. We might for instance read a poem and briefly discuss it or do our map drill or analyze the grammar of a sentence or two. Other subjects like history and science, of course, take a little […]


  3. […] the service of something, not taught for its own sake. This is why I like our grammar curriculum, KISS grammar (free online!). It looks at words based on their function. It does not start out by memorizing the […]


  4. […] is to have imitate good writing. They are not typical composition lessons nor are they frequent. We also do some grammar, but I try not to belabor it. I am not sure if it is truly helpful, but I am not sure I can give up […]


  5. […] reading over it and discussing what might be troublesome points, one analyzing its grammar based on KISS  grammar’s approach, and one doing the actual dictation. We have in the past used Spelling Power and may get […]


  6. […] an interest in it. We use Spelling Power as well and I will have them do periodic exercises from KISS Grammar or possibly Easy Grammar Plus which was given to […]


  7. […] We just have the last bit on punctuation left so I think we will do that and then switch back to KISS Grammar. I really like KISS’s approach. I also pledge to be more diligent in preparing for their […]


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