QualityTime-ESL

The Raynaud Engish Course (Part 1)

Marianne Raynaud

QualityTime is an allusion to the term quality time often used by Americans to refer to those precious moments we spend with our children when they are growing up. Men and women today, who manage to combine full-time jobs in the working world with active, responsible roles as parents often feel guilty about the little time they can devote to their children. However, most people will agree it is the quality of the time spent together that is of utmost importance, not merely the number of hours or minutes.
I feel the same about teaching a foreign language. You cannot equate one hundred or two hundred hours of teaching with a specific level of proficiency. The level attained by a language student depends on the course the latter attended and how that person responded. If the role of the student is limited to passive listening with one or two answers given orally plus some written work mainly done in class, you cannot expect that student to speak the language with ease. If a student speaks at the most for one minute every hour with a teacher, he will at most have spoken English for a maximum of nine hours over a period of six years of study.

A language class—a stimulating experience

On the other hand, if the teacher adapts a QualityTime approach in which he/she uses effective and efficient learning techniques such as tutorials, intensive pair work, role plays, real-time correcting/self-correcting and motivating testing to mention just a few, the student will progress at an amazing pace. QualityTime teaching consists in analyzing the objectives and the strategy needed to make a two-hour weekly language class into a stimulating experience that all students, whatever their level or learning abilities, will look forward to with enthusiasm.
Over the last twenty years, I have received considerable praise for my teaching. This praise has come both from former students and from colleagues with whom I have worked. Students have told me how valuable my course has been to them. Former colleagues, with whom I worked in close collaboration, called my method revolutionary, even adding that they felt fortunate to have been able to take what they called the “Raynaud Training Course for Teachers.” These colleagues have over the last few years encouraged me to write about what they consider to be my very dynamic teaching techniques.

Excellent results on international tests

I realize every teacher has a personal way of teaching, and I do not claim to have found the perfect solution. I am thrilled to say that I have received so many e-mails from students telling me about their excellent results on international tests. Even those who were my very weakest students when they started have announced with pride that they scored over 750 on the TOEIC in the months following the end of the two-year course, and the best students have been proud to report scores over 900. Concerning my initially very weak students, they too had to take the TOEFL to obtain their engineering diploma, and they all scored over 530. The best students told me their scores were in the 600s and up to 648, which is almost perfect!

An effective and fun EFL course

I was appointed to the University in Grenoble, France in 1980. The job involved coordinating English courses for engineering students at INPG (l’Institut National Polytechnique de Grenoble). My position was supposed to be that of a simple English teacher and not a researcher. However, I feel I have spent most of my career thinking up and experimenting with different teaching techniques and writing texts and exercises that fit the needs of language students.
Little by little, I was able to put together a course that has turned out to be very effective. Students have said it was highly motivating, and after two years of intensive training, they realized they could speak English!
Just as recently as yesterday a former student wrote to say thank you for all those countless assignments and oral presentations he had done during the course. He added he now felt really at ease whenever he had to prepare or present a talk in English. And not long ago I attended a magnificent slide show prepared by another former student who had biked together with a friend all the way from Mount McKinley in Alaska to Santiago Chile. The lecture hall was full of students and among them at least thirty that I had had in my classes over the years. They all came up and told me of their fond memories of English class and all the fun they had had with the amusing activities. Yes, “fun” was the word they used. I know I made them work very hard and forced them to memorize long texts and to perform often in stressful situations, and yet what they remembered was the laughter and the pleasure of working together while progressing in their language skills. That reinforces my belief that if you make students work hard and they learn a great deal, they will forever be grateful for your teaching.

The Raynaud English Course

When I reached the end of my career, numerous people encouraged me to explain what this Raynaud English Course for Science Students was all about. Colleagues and students tend to use the term Raynaud Course, but I feel this can lead to confusion. Whatever it was, this course is not a particular textbook that you can buy at a local bookstore. It is not a workbook with CDs or digital files. It is more appropriately defined as a way of thinking, and that is why I prefer the title QualityTime-ESL. (ESL stands for English as a Second Language.)
This way of thinking is based on three ideas: a newfound teacher-student relationship, intensive, interactive learning techniques and an evaluation system designed to motivate the students. Once a former engineering student summed it up in just a few words: “Mrs. Raynaud, you have the knack of imagining classroom activities where all the students will be participating virtually at the same time and speaking almost spontaneously, and that is the key to effective teaching.” The student had understood that the objective is to provide each student with a maximum of individual speaking time in sundry enjoyable activities that will boost confidence and encourage participation. That is why I speak of the importance of IST or Individual Speaking Time.

Lack of effective techniques

Just before launching my QualityTime-ESL project, I went to a huge bookstore in my city and walked directly to the section dealing with textbooks for language learning. I was immensely impressed by the great variety of books for students of English as a second language I looked through. There were self-teaching books with well-written dialogs full of essential vocabulary. There were textbooks for science students in numerous different fields, dictionaries of all kinds, CDs, songbooks, game books, etc. At that point, I said to myself, with all this excellent teaching material available today, why is it young French students entering university are still not able to speak English correctly? And why is it that after several years at university they still don’t feel at ease in oral communication? Yes, year after year, high school graduates starting their engineering studies would tell me they had never really spoken English in class. Moreover, trained engineers respond in surveys saying what they regret the most about their university studies is that they didn’t learn how to speak English at an acceptable level.

The problem as I see it is not a lack of course materials but a lack of effective techniques based on a psychological approach to the language acquisition. We have to take into account the basic emotions a student experiences when studying a foreign language, feelings that will either favor or go against the learning process. For this reason, the Raynaud Method, which I will from now on speak of as "QualityTime-ESL," is an alternative way of thinking that can be adapted to most levels of language teaching from near beginners to very advanced students.

There is another essential point that has to be mentioned. I did not develop this course all by myself. I may have served as a mentor for my younger colleagues, but I also know I have learned much from those people I worked with, be they young or old. That is why I wish to acknowledge all the help I received from my collaborators, who regularly brainstormed with me, came up with numerous ideas, and contributed much original material as well as numerous recordings. The course, however, continues to bear my name, since I was always the driving force behind it, the catalyst; and because I materialized so to speak the ideas of the team.

A non-academic style

When it came to putting down on paper the philosophy behind my teaching as well as the advice, hints, and even various tricks of the trade I might leave for further generations of enthusiastic teachers, I decided to avoid an academic style. Articles with long-winded, jargon-filled sentences are more or the less standard in papers on teaching English as a second language in France. I wanted to explain, in simple words, the personal discoveries I had made, the errors I had to rectify, and the tremendous rewards in spite of hardships that have marked my career. I wanted to be as down-to-earth as possible and take an honest look at my evolution through the years, which, naturally, encountered a certain number of setbacks and not only success.

My destiny—my mission

All in all, I must say, though, I am very grateful to my destiny, which made it possible for me to become a teacher. At the age of twenty, in my diary, I wrote that I wanted to find a mission in life. That mission turned out to be the teaching of English as a second language. If this book can help young teachers starting out on a career or others trying to find a better, more effective way of teaching at the high school or college level whatever the language or the subject, I will be overjoyed. My mission will have been accomplished. I wish to add I have been much encouraged by my daughter, who says she has never met anyone as impassioned by her work as her mother. I do hope this enthusiasm and the immense pleasure I have felt all along my career will be transmitted through this book and will inspire others.

Speaking openly and asking for advice

As I mentioned above, I wanted to use simple, direct language. I have always trained teachers by talking them through the steps of a lesson and analyzing together with them verbally the objectives and the strategy to be employed. I still have vivid memories of how we would enthusiastically confront our ideas to reach a consensus on the approach we would adopt. I was pleased to see young teachers felt confident enough to speak openly and ask for advice whenever they needed it. I, too, was always very honest about problems that I had encountered or continued to face even towards the end of my career. Communication was our strength. Consequently, I wanted this book to reflect the experience of all those intense and rewarding conversations I had.

Part 2 of this article

More information about Marianne Raynaud’s book QualityTime-ESL: The Digital Resource Book 2.0.


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