Segmenting YouTube Videos for Better Comprehension Opportunities

I like my students to have opportunities to view content videos delivered in English that are NOT designed for English language learners, in which the speakers sometimes speak too fast and use unfamiliar vocabulary. In other words, they speak like many college instructors or business people whom my students will need to be able to understand sometime soon. So, to break down the information and make it more easily understandable for them, my goal was to edit YouTube videos on my Mac into various segments, chunking the information and interspersing reflection and discussion questions to assess, “sooner than later,” my students’ understanding of the material presented. This was easy to do in a face-to-face (f2f) class simply by stopping the video, but I wanted to be able to assign the videos to students who were not present in f2f classes whether they were studying online or maybe just absent on the day of the presentation.  So, this is what I learned to do so easily, and you can do it, too. Here’s how:

First, open on the web which converts the YouTube video to various formats. (I chose the MP4 format because, from what I understood, it was the most useful on different platforms.) Paste the URL of the video you want to segment into, and press Continue.

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Decide what quality and file size you want your video segments to be, or use the default settings. Click Download and Start.

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Wait for the message that the conversion has been successfully completed.

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When it tells you it is successfully completed, click Download on this new screen.

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Once the movie is downloaded, click on it, and it opens up in Quicktime Player. Click the Edit command, decide where you want your video segments to start and stop, and click Trim.

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So, now you have your first segment. Upload this segment to your YouTube account by clicking on Creator Studio and then upload, and then wait for it to be processed. (Since the segments are generally quite small, this won’t take very long.) Repeat these steps as often as needed to segment the video the way you wish.

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Now  you can upload your new YouTube video segments to your presentation. I used Google Slides for my presentations because it is easy to upload YouTubes to my Google Sites and my blog here on WordPress.

In my presentations, I add a vocabulary slide or two to discuss before watching any of the video segments, and I generally leave two slides after each video segment, one for a question or reflection and the next for a response. You  decide what works best in your presentation for you and your students. At the end of the presentation, consider adding a brief re-check via Google Forms or Socrative for students to do individually or in pairs as one final comprehension check to finish up the lesson.

Enjoy! I think your students will appreciate this as mine do. It gives us ample time for discussion and assessment of comprehension between segments.

For related information:



Activity Picture Prompts for Discussion

Here are some slides which show a variety of activities to elicit conversation in your language classes. Ask your students about what they see. Use these slides to talk about clothing and different kinds of equipment needed for the activities. (Are they count or non-count items? Describe them.) What different kinds (and levels) of skills are needed to participate in these activities? How are these skills acquired? (Are there any similarities to acquiring language skills?)
Are these activities common where the students come from? Did they participate in them “back home?” Have them talk about an event they participated in. (This is how I found out one of my students was actually an Olympian!)
What about now? Do they engage in these activities in their adopted homes? Why or why not? What are the benefits? What are the difficulties? Are there health benefits to participating in these activities? What are they?  Would they recommend that other people try them? Are these skills for careers or hobbies? (What’s the difference?) Are there opportunities for professionals and amateurs to participate?
Your students can bring a picture of a hobby, sport, or activity that they enjoy participating in and meet in groups of three or four to discuss the different pictures. The group can then select one of its members to present it to the class. Or, turn this discussion into a writing (blogging) activity or an oral demonstration presentation to put into a vlog. Students can tweet the links with an image to their online presentations. The possibilities are endless!

Celebrating autumn with language

Word clouds:


Prose: Autumn is here. Temperatures are falling along with the leaves. Winter clothes, yellow, orange, and brown, are out of storage and the pastel shades of summer disappear for another year.  Cheers for the winning football teams are loud and clear along with the crackling of burning wood in the chimneys. Do you smell the smoke? Do you smell the spiced cider on the stove and the pumpkin brownies in the oven? Isn’t autumn fabulous!


autumn haiku

Found on

Following recipes: 

Cider RecipeFound on

Illustrating recipes: Illustated pumpkin recipe

Found on

Songs:    41 Songs to Fall in Love with Autumn     (The Ultimate Fall Playlist on Spotify by Mashable)
Listen! Sing! Discuss the lyrics! Move to the music! How does the music make you feel?

How will you celebrate autumn with your students?



A good resource for word cloud apps is

Haiku2Found on

Creative Uses of Instagram

Follow @@hootsuite on Twitter!

This is how hate is created…from @thereaIbanksy

The “Hole-in-the Wall” Project on TED by Sugata Mitra

In this TED (Technology, Entertainment, and Design) presentation, Sugata Mitra, Ph.D.,  Professor of Educational Technology at the School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences at Newcastle University, UK, and Chief Scientist, Emeritus, at NIIT in Gurgaon, India, proves with his “hole in the wall” experiments, carried out in some of the poorest parts of the world, that children “will learn to do what they want to learn to do” regardless of who or where they are in the world.  He discusses children’s ability to learn without instruction given the opportunity, computers, and learning companions.  Furthermore, he suggests that teachers who understand and value this concept of learning will be able to unleash amazing amounts of learning energy in their students.

How can we unleash this learning energy in our adult ESL students?  In our classrooms and workshops,  let’s recreate a form of Dr. Mitra’s SOLES (self-organized learning environments), and ask our students to collaboratively find answers to questions by capitalizing on each other’s knowledge without any intervention or interference by the teacher.   I don’t propose that this be the daily lesson plan, but it can be an activity to accompany almost any lesson if structured appropriately.  Will the students improve their English-language, problem-solving and technology skills simply by being given the opportunity, the resources, and the cohorts?  You betcha!    Just as In Language Learning, Silence is Golden on the part of the teacher, also golden is allowing our students to be at the center of their learning rather than the instructor!  Can these SOLES also be set up to have students develop a project, be it a video, glog, audio file, story, or other creation demonstrating the technology, language, and problem-solving competencies they have achieved through these  “hole-in-the-wall exercises? Let’s find out!

Another thought…Dr. Mitra talked about the “Granny Cloud” from which kindhearted souls would Skype into the classroom to help and encourage the children in their learning.  Why aren’t we using Skype in our classes to give our adult students contact with kindhearted volunteers who might not be able to be physically present in the classroom but who could, nevertheless, offer language and cultural assistance to our students through tutoring, guided conversation practice, and/or by simply by being on hand to answer questions or to ask them, “how are you doing today, my friend?”

Thanks to Adam Burke for his post, Lessons in the Absence of Teachers.

Getting Students on Google Docs

This past week I had two of my groups use Google Docs.  My advanced ESL Research & Study Skills students used a spreadsheet in Google Docs to document their research question, their primary and secondary topics as well as a bit of personal information.  I chose a Google Doc spreadsheet  for this task:  1) to help them finalize, document, and share their writing topics; 2) to enable them to see who else in the class was interested in their topic or one similar enough in order to collaborate or at least share information with;   3) to be able to project the information on a screen so my colleague in the psychology department, Dr. Marco O’Brien,  who is volunteering his time to help the students develop their scientific research paper, would be able to quickly look over the students’ ideas while working with them; and 4) so the students could easily edit their work at school, at home, in the library,  or wherever they had the opportunity.

My second group, a combined high beginning/low intermediate,  Talk ‘n’ Tech class, also used a spreadsheet in Google Docs to write down information about themselves and then to use that information as a basis for “getting to know you” conversation in small groups.  The document also helps me know them better in order to use their backgrounds and interests in future conversation and technology activities.  I intend to also build on the document and have the students update it as the class continues.

I was happy to know that our students email accounts were acceptable as Google accounts, so the students did not need to open new ones.  A problem we encountered, however, was that our MATC computers were set for medium level privacy and we needed to remember to enable cookies by lowering the privacy level in Internet Explorer prior to opening up the Google Docs.  If we enabled them once we were in the “Doc,” when we refreshed the page, we were taken back to Blackboard and had to start over again.  So, it became a long route to get to a short distance.

The more advanced computer users were impressed with the ability of the entire class to be concurrently working on the same document.  (Up to 50 people can be editing  the document at the same time.)  The beginning computer users had nothing to compare it to, but enjoyed the process of  writing and being able to see what others were simultaneously writing.

A continued issue I have with my 8:30 fifty-five minute technology class is latecomers wanting me to stop everything to integrate them into the task.  This causes me to lose time.  If I don’t stop and help them,  they ask a neighbor to catch them up causing the neighbor to get behind or lost.  I have had to close the door to late arrivals which has angered those who are late, yet those who make the effort to arrive on time are appreciative of my new policy.  I hope that those who have been consistently late will realize what they are missing and set their alarm clocks a little earlier rather than drop the class.

One bright side note is that we are two weeks into our six-week summer session, and I am still teaching paperlessly!  Technology allows me to do that, and I am grateful to be able to save trees this way.  When I explained this to my classes, they ceased asking me for handouts and were happy to know that any information they needed for my classes could be found electronically in Blackboard.