series - English for Tots)
here to see some pics)
is an original design for a TV series to introduce the English language
to children through a series of amusing and entertaining episodes.
Although initially directed to a young public, its audience scope is unlimited
because it is quality entertainment with a cast of 13 delightful characters
(3 humans and 10 puppets).
All of the elements in the programme have been specifically created for
this series and are designed to compete with quality entertainment productions.
is based on an original languange-learning method, NAL
(Natural acquisition of language). The NAL
method has been submitted to the Council
of Europe, and teacher-training courses in the method
are presently being offered to cooperate with the educational system.
on the NAL method
scripts have been written by Susan Noonan,
who developed the method during 15 years of classroom experience with
The puppets are the work of Bonnie Erickson
(Harrison / Erickson, Inc.,
New York) designer of the famous Muppet characters, Miss
The series is valid for any country in the world. No dubbing or adaptations
are necessary. This advantage, together with its wide range of potential
by-products and educational tools, makes PitterPatio
an attractive investment possibility. Arriba
combines a precisely structured learning method with the appropriate format
for an entertaining children's television series.
1. Structure. The series consists of 52 episodes.
Each episode is fifteen minutes long, as this is the
commercial format which best adapts to the requirements of the method
and the characteristics of the small child. Taking into account a small
child's ease in assimilating sounds and images, together with his short
span of attention when new incentives are not forthcoming, each episode
has been structured in short sequences (between 15 and 120 seconds).
2. Environment and sets. To allow for easy and comfortable
communication among all the characters as well as with the children watching
the programme, the inside patio of an urban building, open on one end,
was chosen as the main set. Three more elements were added to this setting,
which are part of the building itself: a shop, a neighborhood theatre
and a flat rooftop. This house is located in a block of taller buildings
in a large city. It stands out from the other buildings because of its
structure and size (it has only two floors) and because of the "light"
emanating from its patio. The outside access to the patio is through a
"rainbowed" arch between the store and the theatre (at the open
end of the U), which gives way to a small gate, the real entrance to the
patio and to the programme. The patio allows all the characters to come
together, and the windows giving on to it (together with the child's window/screen)
facilitate communication with everyone. PitterPatio
is a living space, filled with movement. It's a place where things happen.
3. Characters. PitterPatio
uses thirteen teachers disguised as funny and entertaining characters
living together in an English?speaking space/place. Three of these teachers
are people and the remaining ten are puppets. Each has a special function
and a particular trait a child can identify with. These thirteen characters
constantly interact and represent daily situations which are identifiable
to the child. They urge the child to participate, to speak, to sing, to
do exercises, etc. , with them. They open PitterPatio
(their English-speaking space) to the children and invite them to come
in and take part in all the activities. They are ideal for the development
of the method; amusing and endearing, they provide comfort and security
for small children.
4. Scripts. The scripts are situations and activities
familiar to small children adjusted to the method and adapted to television
requirements. Starting with a minimum of words in the first episode, the
scripts reach the fifty-second with an ample vocabulary and language structure
without breaking the unity of the episodes. The situations are easily
recognizable to small children and, at the same time, stimulate their
interest, their laughter, their curiosity and, naturally, their participation.
They are clear, functional, dramatically "exaggerated", funny,
entertaining and natural. They display a variety of people, personalities
and ways of doing things, without barriers and without antagonism. The
"pure" emotions of children at this age are also taken into
account. Their emotions have no subtleties. The attitudes of the characters
are always positive, never allowing any frightening circumstances. The
absence of tense situations which would be confusing to follow or which
would be asking too much of the child, was a main requisite of PitterPatio.
And, situations whose filming could be unnecessarily costly or complicated
5. Music. Following the overall harmony of the series
and with sincere respect for a small child's musical sensitivity, musical
compositions which are agreeable, happy, entertaining and without strident
tones were created. The music and lyrics are original. It is quality music
and the lyrics are designed to fit the method. There are 15 original songs,
which help to assimilate and reinforce the acquired concepts and accompany
the children in their activities. Thus, the songs LET'S DO EXERCISES,
FRIENDS, WATER, EASY, YES/NO, ONE-TWO-THREE, GOOD MORNING, I'M SLEEPY,
etc. are another reinforcement of the vocabulary previously learned.
6. Drawings. To clarify some concepts, and as another
means of orientating the child, some sequences of static (and slightly
animated) drawings are present throughout the series. These sequences
are very short (between 15 and 25 seconds) and are accompanied by the
voices of the characters.
7. Rhythm. Rhythm is essential to this method. It is
an "English" rhythm, and it is constantly present. The words,
gestures, movements and pauses are all perfectly timed to obtain harmonious
compensation between image and sound. Arriba
is the result of fifteen years of classroom work and investigation. During
this time, different approaches were observed, used and contrasted with
children from two to six years of age. The conlusions were that small
are able to learn a new language in the same way they learn a maternal
can easily establish a relationship between the different words they
hear and the actions or gestures which accompany them.
perfect imitators, capable of receiving and precisely reproducing phonemes
of any language. The most important factor is a good pronuciation model.
grammatical rules by applying language models to natural identifiable
are receptive to everything which is agreeably presented.
an unlimited fascination with repetition.
are simply and naturally the best equipped to truly learn a foreign
From these observations, a system emerged which is one practically created
by the children themselves. Given the necessary encouragement and assistance
the children demonstrated their need to communicate.
is an audiovisual/conceptual method. No written words or numbers appear.
The method makes use of the following:
3 basic verbs : to HAVE, to WANT, to LIKE.
Other verbs representing concepts: OPEN, CLOSE, GIVE, LOOK, LISTEN,
WASH, STAND, SIT, etc.
Basic concepts : YES/NO, UP/DOWN, BIG/LITTLE, HUNGRY/THIRSTY, CLEAN/DIRTY,
HAPPY/SAD, FAST/SLOW, etc.
: 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.
Colours : BLUE, RED, YELLOW, GREEN, and ORANGE.
The parts of the body.
verbs are used in the present tense. Negatives are used. The verb "to
be" is introduced naturally. Prepositions are also used naturally.
All of the episodes have the same basic structure:
Introduction and review
a. New vocabulary
b. Review of recently learned concepts
a. Body movements
b. Parts of the body
Application and assimilation
a. Use of new concepts applied to practical situations
b. Review of concepts learned in earlier episodes
The explicit repetition of concepts in each episode is accompanied by
an implicit overall progression in grammatical structure from Episode
1 through Episode 52. Thus, if in Episode 1, the children learn LOOK,
BALLS!, by Episode 5, they are saying I WANT BALLS, PLEASE. By Episode
7 they can say I WANT THREE BIG BALLS. GIVE ME THREE BIG BALLS PLEASE!,
and accordingly with all concepts used. Arriba
The series is dramatic, filled with movements and gestures. Mime takes
the place of words in many occasions. Nothing is "explained";
images and gestures support the key words stressed. For example, GIVE
ME THE BALL, is accompanied by the gesture "give me" and the
physical presence of the ball. The key words are GIVE and BALL, and are
identified; the sentence as a whole is understood.
The vocabulary is basic and clear in meaning. The children are introduced
to new sounds which acquire their meaning through their use in different
Nothing is superfluous; everything has its function. There is no room
Pronunciation is the key factor. Native English-speaking people provide
all the voices used: thirteen different voices all repeat the same words.
other words, THERE ARE THIRTEEN TEACHERS SUPPLYING CORRECT PRONUNCIATION
DATOS DE INTERÉS
is worldwide an extraordinarily demand for audiovisual content.
today's world there is an imperative need to speak other languages,
English being the most solicited, and there is a demand for new programmes
to introduce children to foreign languages.
The majority of European legislations reserve important air time for
national productions and require that a minimum number of programmes
be produced by the channels themselves.
10% to 15% of broadcasts are directed to children.
Children watch television from 3 to 4 hours a day.
In the USA, child care has exeprienced the following variations between
1965 and 1985: In 1965, 62% of the children were cared for by relatives
and only 6% in public centres; in 1985, these figures were 48% (+14%)
and 23%(+17%), respectively.
In the European Union, no less than 50% of preschool children from 3
to 5 are cared for in public centres. This figure reaches up to 90%
in France, Belgium, Italy and Denmark.
There is a lack of adequate language teachers and a lack of economic
means to prepare them.
Today's driving force in teaching foreign languages is: COMMUNICATION.
The learning of a second language should not be considered an end in
itself but rather a means to an end : being able to communicate needs
The majority of European countries begin teaching the first foreign
language at the age of eleven. This means that the child begins his
contact with the new language by reading, writing and speaking at the
The best time to learn a foreign language is before 6 years of age.
The small child has important neurophysiological advantages for learning
languages: prepubertal cerebral flexibility for pronunciation, cerebral
placement of languages learned before 6 years of age and maxilo-facial
To facilitate equal opportunities for learning a second language at
this "ideal age", avoiding socio-economic, geographical or
cultural differences, there is only one answer: television. Arriba