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:



Weekly Performance Self-Assessment for Students

This self-assessment on Blackboard should take each student no longer than five minutes each week.  By recognizing the weekly “energy”  they put into their learning, students should begin to see a correlation between this “energy” and their weekly academic achievement.

1.  True or False     I attended class each day this week.

2. True or False     I was in class from (8:00-8:55) each day without arriving late, leaving early, or leaving class to answer a phone call or use the washroom.

3.  True or False     I completed all assigned work for this class.

4.  True or False     I spoke English, watched American television, or worked on the computer in English a minimum of three times this week for at least 30 minutes each time.

5.  True or False     I studied English with a “study buddy”  at least once this week.

6.  True or False     I got  _____ out of _____ points ____ on this week’s quiz.

We’ll see if helping the students stay on target each week helps them reach their language goal a little faster and recognize more aptly the power they have over their own learning.

Weekly Performance Rubric for Adult ESL Students

It is not uncommon for me to use rubrics to evaluate student projects.  But, as we’ve become increasingly concerned about our environment and our budgets, I’ve made every effort to run my class paperlessly by using technology.  Putting more online has also helped me and the students stay better organized and on task.  So, it was time to update my rubrics from paper to digital.

I was looking for an online rubric template which would eliminate paper, total scores, allow for easy modifications, and provide me with a duplicate of the individual rubric given to each student.  What I found was right in front of me on Blackboard, the course management system used by my college.  In addition to all of the above, Blackboard automatically sends a copy of the rubric score into the grade book, and even has space for individual feedback.

My plan is to use the rubric to evaluate the students’ weekly performance.  I have incorporated in it, together with the college and departmental core abilities and the course competencies, the skills that my last semester students valued and asked collaboratively to have emphasized in their performance reviews.

The rubric will change as our needs change, and I expect to have to do some tweaking sooner than later.  But, I am confident that weekly use of it will help my students better understand what the college and I expect of them for them to be considered successful in class and move on to the next level of education.

  Levels of Achievement
 Criteria   Novice   Competent   Proficient
Demonstrates level six (course)competencies as indicated on the syllabus 10 Points
Exhibits minimal understanding of new structures; frequent use of native language
20 Points
Demonstrates ability to use new structures correctly some of the time; infrequent use of native language
30 Points
Demonstrates ability to use new structures and vocabulary most of the time; always uses English in class
Participates in class: acts responsibly, values self and is respectful of others’ rights, needs, and opinions 10 Points
Participates when called on, but is usually unprepared,   frequently absent or late to class
15 Points
Participates when called on successfully some of the time
20 Points
Participates actively and successfully most of the time
Works productively and efficiently: completes daily work using  resources successfully, makes up work due to absences in a timely manner 10 Points
Takes tests but rarely completes other assignments; has trouble meeting due dates
15 Points
Takes all tests and completes most of the assigned work within given time frame
20 Points
Takes all tests and completes assignments by due dates
Works cooperatively: completes tasks, solves problems, resolves conflicts, provides information, and offers support 5 Points
Contributes minimally, accepts others’ solutions,
not dependable
7 Points
Completes most tasks, strives to participate and contribute, dependable
10 Points
Completes tasks, facilitates discussion, synthesizes information, valuable
Uses Technology: Uses technology taught including Blackboard to access course  materials, complete assignments, and take tests. 5 Points
Needs assistance with all technology including Bb
7 Points
Uses Bb but needs continual assistance with other technologies
10 Points
Uses Bb and new technologies independently
Demonstrates creative thinking: constructs knowledge, and develops innovative products and processes with or without technology. 5 Points
Does not yet show fluency, original thought or unprompted elaboration.
7 Points
Shows some evidence of fluency, originality, and spontaneous thought
10 Points
Shows consistent evidence of fluency, originality, and spontaneous thought

Resources used for this rubric in conjunction with the Milwaukee Area Technical College core abilities are:
1)  Blackboard Rubrics
2)  Collaborative Work Skills Rubric
3)  Core Abilities
4)  Penn State Rubric Cubed: Rubric Builder, Interactive Grading Rubric, Rich Feedback Generator  (No longer an active site)
5)  Rubric Use and Development
6)  ToGa Learning

What My Adult ESL Students Ask to Be Evaluated on and The Challenges in It For Me

About half way into the past semester, I asked my students what they wanted to be evaluated on.  Certainly, I had my objectives for their learning, the department and the college had their own lists of core abilities for all courses, and the state and federal governments had their standards for student success. But, I wanted my students to discern what they collectively thought should be emphasized in my class. They made a list of five major areas of focus for the semester.

1. Daily classroom participation: This is a catch-22 situation for the students because, while they don’t want their lack of attendance to jeopardize their grades, they want their participation to count toward their success. They clearly know that getting regular feedback on their communication is vital to developing their English skills as is, then, their daily attendance.  My challenge is to get them to come to class daily by providing them with a variety of stimulating learning activities, opportunities for daily achievement and success, and ownership of their education. It is also my challenge to make my course content accessible to the students regardless of their attendance and to offer them the opportunity to participate in ways other than face-to-face when necessary.

2. Interpersonal skills: This the students define as their ability to work in class individually, in pairs, or in small groups, respecting the rights and needs of their classmates and the instructor. My challenge is to clearly guide the process for each of the situations while providing the students with the opportunity to develop awareness of cultural, educational, and learning norms and differences in our student population.

3. Problem-solving skills: The students highlight this as a critical factor for success in the classroom and out. They define this skill as how students resolve their study issues, including completing their daily work, making up work/tests due to absences, getting information (including handouts) they may have missed, using study buddies, email or instructor office hours to get the extra attention they need to reach their targeted goals. My challenge is to help the students set their goals, clarify my standards and expectations, and work with the class on developing good study strategies and troubleshooting options.

4. Use of technology: I use Blackboard as a course management tool as does most of my college. I require that my students use it to access the course syllabus, weekly and daily coursework, handouts, and extra resources. Additionally, students take their tests on Respondus Lockdown Browser, a custom browser that locks down the testing environment within Blackboard. I communicate regularly with the students via Gmail. I also use other applications such as Audioboo, Facebook, Glogster, Twitter, VoiceThread, and YouTube. The students know the importance of technology in the workplace and they are discovering its value in their learning. My challenge is to have online tutorials for the technology I teach thereby enabling students to review at home what I’ve taught in class, and/or to get the instructions if they are absent. (I am aware of the fact that some of the savvier students are tired of assisting the others with the same technology issues day after day.) I also need to help the students become more technologically independent by setting stricter deadlines for achieving and demonstrating their competency on the different programs we use.

5. Last, but certainly not least, the students want to be evaluated on the English competencies outlined in their syllabus and course outcome summary. My challenge is to to offer a variety of projects allowing for different learning styles in which the students can creatively practice and demonstrate a higher level of English skills.

Interestingly, these students’ focus points align very nicely with our college’s core abilities (

  • Communicate effectively.
  • Collaborate with others.
  • Respect diversity.
  • Demonstrate responsibility.
  • Think critically.
  • Use technology.
  • Apply math and science.

What do your students want to be evaluated on? It is a great discussion to have with them.

Part Two: A Rubric for Evaluating Student Performance and Objectives

Part Three: Students’ Standards for Instructor Evaluations


My latest technology discovery for use in my ESL classes is Audioboo.  Audioboo is a free social platform for recording or uploading audio and sharing it on the web or on mobile devices.  Audioboo allows us to record up to five minutes of audio, called a “boo,” to share on our own Audioboo site or on Facebook, Twitter, or other applications.  I particularly like the fact that we can send audio message “boos” to others on Audioboo.  This platform fits into my advanced ESL Speech Making course beautifully.

One of my Speech Making course objectives is to improve  pronunciation.  My curriculum for this course has always included articulations for the students to practice and record.  Previously I had the students use Windows Sound Recorder to record their audio, and then they would send them to me as email attachments.  This semester my students will each open Audioboo accounts.  They’ll follow me to hear the “articulation of the week,” and then they’ll send me their assignment, their recording of the articulation, as an audio message boo.  These boos will go straight to my Audioboo Message Inbox so I won’t have to worry about them getting lost amidst my hundreds of weekly emails.  I can then critique their articulation and return my comments to them as message boos delivered directly to their inbox.

Students are also going to use Audioboo in this Speech Making class as a device for practicing their speeches.  For example, the next presentation the students will give is a three to five minute news presentation.  Audioboo will replace the mirror as their  tool of preference for practicing their speeches.  The students may not be able to look at themselves while delivering their speeches, but they will be able to listen to their pronunciation, phrasing, and fluidity and be advised of their five minute time limit.  If their recording time runs out, they’ll know they need to go ahead and cut parts of their speech before they get their time cut in front of the class during the actual presentation.  A veritable face saver!

The news presentations are given in groups.  Since Audioboo is a social network, the students within the same news group can share their news boos prior to their classroom presentations.  Their group members can then critique the speeches by: a)  following each other in Audioboo in order to b) listen to each other’s speech boo, and then by c) sending their critiques in message boos, also affording them speaking and listening practice.   I can give homework credit for these message exchanges as well.

I’m excited about using this new application in this speech classes and possibly in other classes as well.  I think both the students and I are going to like creating own own boos and finding ways to use them outside of this one class.  I’ll keep you posted on our progress.

What Adult ESL Students Want in a Teacher-Part 2

Today I polled my advanced adult ESL students as to what characteristic(s) they thought good teachers possessed.  The results are published on the following website:

By far the majority of the comments centered on the personality of the teacher rather than on the teacher’s knowledge of the content or teaching strategies.  The students look for patience, kindness (“a kind heart”),  fairness, encouragement, enthusiasm, good humor,  someone who is a good listener and can be trusted with confidential information.

As for pedagogy, according to my students, a good teacher is innovative and knows how to teach while not making the students too anxious,  teaches clearly so students can understand, controls and challenges the class, is not boring, and is passionate about her subject and capable of teaching all the students  (“thinks about how to teach this student and another person”).  A good teacher imparts as much knowledge as possible including new vocabulary and information about the American culture.

This is valuable information for reflecting on myself as a teacher of adult English language learners and for examining my interactions with my students both inside the classroom and out.  While I expected more criteria from the students regarding a teacher’s daily classroom habits, I am not at all surprised or disappointed that they focused more on their teachers’  gentleness of spirit.

I will poll the students again at the end of the semester to see if/how their assessment of “good-teacher” characteristics changes, and I will ask the students to anonymously evaluate me and my teaching performance on those essential qualities my students value in a teacher.

You might also be interested in reading 10 Characteristics of Highly
Effective Teachers by Tamas Lorincz (@tamaslorincz).

What Adult ESL Students Want in a Teacher-Part 1

Have you ever wondered how your idea of a good teacher compares to your students’ idea of a good teacher?  In preparing for the upcoming fall semester, I began to think about what my adult ESL students thought were important traits in their instructors (as well as how I would measure up).  So, I’ve decided to ask them just that as part of my opening activities.  But first, I’ve made my own list of what I anticipate their answers to be.   My plan is to compare my “assumptions” to their responses.  I’ll repeat the same question to the students at the end of the semester to see if there are any changes knowing that for some of them, this will be their first experience in an American classroom as well as their first exposure to second language pedagogy.  I will then include their final criteria in my course/instructor evaluation at the end of the semester.  So, here goes with what I think they their initial list will include:

1.   The teacher comes to class prepared to teach.
2.   The teacher knows everything there is to know about the English language.
3.   The teacher gives the students practice speaking.
4.   The teacher doesn’t talk too much or too fast.
5.   The teacher gives homework, but not too much.
6.   The teacher returns homework the next day with all the errors marked.
7.   The teacher cares about the students.
8.   The teacher arrives to class on time.
9.   The teacher gives students extra help when needed.
10. The teacher uses technology and helps students learn to use it.

Now,  what do you think your adult ESL students want in an instructor?
Please click on the link below to add your own ideas!