It has four major components.
1. Headwords - a systematically chosen list of headwords based on the latest research and contemporary practice.
2. Controlled, yet natural language - possibly the most difficult achievement of the series.
3. Deep background - a larger “world” or context for the stories, extensively developed before any stories were written.
4. Target audience-sourced story ideas - a majority of the story ideas came from children and teens at the appropriate ages.
In our building, the building blocks, or bricks, are the headwords. The headwords for the entire series - and for each level - were chosen by Mr. Akio Furukawa and his extensive reading experts at SEG, to best reflect frequency, usefulness, and difficulty for ESL readers at each level.
As an author, I also read as widely as possible in contemporary research in these fields by Paul Nation, Rob Waring, Akio Furukawa, and others.
During development of the texts, I used software to analyze them and make sure that they were in keeping with the headwords list for that level, and that there was sufficient recycling of headwords. (I used the excellent freeware AntConc and AntWordProfiler by Laurence Anthony, Associate Professor at Waseda University, Japan.)
If the headwords are the building blocks, our building’s concrete and steel is the controlled language and grammar. SEG and mpi inc. provided a comprehensive plan detailing the appropriate grammatical and language structures for each level.
Before starting to write BBL, I read as many of the competing series as I could get my hands on. I soon noticed that those series that strictly controlled language, grammar and headwords, paid a price of having unnatural, clunky or awkward sounding English (and consequently, unnatural stories). It didn’t always make for fun reading.
Other series used wonderful, natural sounding English (often UK English), but used some expressions that were colloquial, regional and difficult to read and comprehend for many ESL readers.
We needed to find a fine balance somewhere between the two. Having worked with Yoko Matsuka for nearly 4 years on the We Can! course books (and other previous titles), I had learned a lot from her about the importance of natural-sounding English.
So we decided early on that when we had to make a hard decision about sticking strictly to the headwords and grammar structures, or going for naturalness and readability, we would favor naturalness.
Every building needs a plan, and the architect’s plan for our building was the deep background of the series.
This is the scope and sequence, and detailed character and environment notes that we developed, and that I wrote extensively about in the first article in this series.
You can find it here: http://www.mpi-j.co.jp/kiji/kiji_1006_1.html