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PitterPatio (TV series - English for Tots) (click here to see some pics)

PitterPatio 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.

PitterPatio 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. More on the NAL method

The scripts have been written by Susan Noonan, who developed the method during 15 years of classroom experience with small children.

The puppets are the work of Bonnie Erickson (Harrison / Erickson, Inc., New York) designer of the famous Muppet characters, Miss Piggy, Waldorf, Statler, etc.

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

PitterPatio 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 were avoided.

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.

PitterPatio 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 children:

  • are able to learn a new language in the same way they learn a maternal one.
  • can easily establish a relationship between the different words they hear and the actions or gestures which accompany them.
  • are perfect imitators, capable of receiving and precisely reproducing phonemes of any language. The most important factor is a good pronuciation model.
  • develop grammatical rules by applying language models to natural identifiable situations.
    are receptive to everything which is agreeably presented.
  • have an unlimited fascination with repetition.
    are simply and naturally the best equipped to truly learn a foreign language.

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.

PitterPatio 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.
  • Numbers : 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.
  • Colours : BLUE, RED, YELLOW, GREEN, and ORANGE.
  • The parts of the body.
  • Complementary vocabulary.

All 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:

  1. Introduction and review
    a. New vocabulary
    b. Review of recently learned concepts
  2. Exercises
    a. Body movements
    b. Parts of the body
  3. New concepts
  4. 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 situations.

Nothing is superfluous; everything has its function. There is no room for confusion.

Pronunciation is the key factor. Native English-speaking people provide all the voices used: thirteen different voices all repeat the same words.



  • There is worldwide an extraordinarily demand for audiovisual content.
  • In 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 and thoughts.
  • 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 same time.
  • 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 malleability.
  • 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