Why is “Willy Goat” unique?
Willy Goat is the second text book series to be published by Ignite Chinese that is specifically written for Teaching with Comprehensible (TCI) based instructions and Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling (TPRS) practitioners. The Willy goat series have been written in a style that combines the characteristics of Dr. Krashen’s work, learning and the brain, with children’s developmental stages. At the start of the story, our main character, Willy, is a preschooler. Gradually, throughout the story he grows older. Willy Goat is just like every other kid in the world; he faces daily challenges about making friends, learning the value of family, becoming a part of a school community, handling social and emotional conflicts, and developing responsibilities and independence. Therefore, the themes of Willy Goat come from children’s daily life and interaction with others. Children are familiar with the behavior patterns and interactions from Willy Goat, so they can relate to him on a personal level.
Willy Goat is aimed at non-native Chinese students in elementary and middle school. Willy Goat is also a step one reader for native Chinese children. It provides comprehensible, fun, engaging and age-appropriate textbooks for children. Willy Goat has a total of 9 stories. It employs the Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi (HSK) level one vocabulary and is written in a unique, spiral, repetitive way. At the same time, it highlights and emphasizes the characteristics of Chinese languages in rhyming and rhythm. It uses a visual circling written philosophy to expose hanzi to students to this unique, repetitive story form, and helps their brains to recognize patterns and store information more efficiently.
Willy Goat embodies seven characteristics of a TCI curriculum: 1. It uses the most frequent words and structures to quickly build up students’ communicative skills. 2. It employs high frequency phrases that are repetitive, but organized in a novel way. 3. Each story has a small, set number of new words woven into a long passage. 4. It builds a basic structure of communication by constantly guiding students to be able to talk about “where, what, who, how and when” from very early on. 5. It uses backward-design principles in order to master HSK level 1 vocabulary. The vocabulary is broken into 9 groups and woven into 9 big, different spiral stories, or “Chapter stories”. Each chapter story is then broken down further into mini stories. Each mini story level employs a variety of TCI based approaches and assessments to help achieve the desired goals. 6. It is centered on students’ interests and experiences. 7. The language is simple but contains deep meanings.
In a classroom, each Willy Goat story will be used as a chapter reading. The process to prepare students for reaching the goal of reading it successfully is often a combination of TPR, MT and/or collaborative story-asking. This last technique is the signature of TPRS, and is practiced through circling questioning techniques. This is the core of TPRS.
Why don’t we teach students to write Hanzi, Chinese characters, mechanically like we all have done and just let them read? To answer this question, we will need to address how Willy Goat’s Teacher’s Guide is uniquely different. I strive to guide you through how to provide a comprehensible process, and how you can create effective auditory input. This helps students to acquire the sound and meaning of new language, helps to prepare students for getting through their “silent period” and ultimately being able to communicate verbally. It is only at this point that students move on to writing. This whole process is similar to how native children acquire their mother tongue. For most Chinese children, before they enter school they can speak about 2500 words. In their fast-growing brains, they have stored these words’ sounds, syllables and meanings. Only after they step onto the school grounds do they start to learn how to read as they add shapes or pictures to each sound.
In order to keep and sustain a beginner’s interest in Chinese, Willy Goat’s main focus is to start with high frequency phrases and structures. Names, brands, or locations are non-essential information that is most likely kept in English. The human brain can not store every piece of information. Rather, it needs to be selective in order to survive. A high frequency phrase is therefore more important than a person’s name or a location.
Lastly, I would like to emphasize that Willy Goat utilizes the French linguist Nathan Dummitt’s color coding system, which employs different colors to differentiate tones. This takes away the pressure of not knowing tones accurately and allows students to focus their brain power where it is most needed in order to acquire the language.
小羊Willy 是以“可理解输入为宗旨的教学法”和 “协创故事教学法”为依据的二语教材。这些故事的撰写结合了Dr. Krashen 著作中的一些二语习得理论，以及大脑如何支配学习以及儿童脑力发展阶段的特性，在故事之初，我们的故事主角Willy还是一个没上学的小羊羔，但随着故事的发展他也慢慢成长起来.
- 通过不断引导学生在学习初期就用“ 谁”、“在哪儿”、“怎么样”、“什么时候”进行交流，从而帮助学生建立交流的基本框架；
最后，需要强调的是，这套丛书还运用了法国语言学家Nathan Dummitt 的颜色编码系统，也就是运用不同的颜色来区分语调，这就减轻了因为拿不准音调给学生带来的压力，使得学生可以把精力放在习得语言最需要的地方，进而实现高效学习语言的目的。