Xtranormal: Text to Speech Video—A Few Uses

Part of the Cool Sites series

Today’s Cool Site post comes from guest blogger, Kathy Niebuhr

As a .5 elementary media specialist, I was assigned the overflow prep time for two sections of 3rd and 4th grade—one a day. My assignment from my principal when this was created at the beginning of the year was “do technology.” We “did” lots of things during the year learning about and with technology.  One of our fun end-of-the-year projects involved books and the website Xtranormal.  I saw this posted at Digital Tools for Teachers and was intrigued.  At the same time, we had been watching the book reviews done on the McKillop Elementary Glog out of Melissa, TX. I didn’t have the time as a .5 nor the equipment to do some of the cool book reviews done at McKillop, but thought I could use Xtranormal to do something similar.

Third Grade

  1. 1. Each 3rd grader in my class chose one “quality” picture book to read in one class period.  You know what I mean…didn’t have to be at their AR, lexile or guided reading level.  Yeah, read any great picture book!
  2. 2. After reading the book, they had to write three things about the book after putting the title, author and their name at the top of their page:  1) Up to 3 paragraph summary of the book—could include any or all of these—plot, summary, characters, setting, beginning, ending, or anything else they thought was interesting. 2) What was their favorite part of the book? 3) Who and why would they recommend this book to someone else?
  3. Stick the paper in the book and the project was done (no more than two 40-minute sessions)

Fifth Grade

  1. Working with a fifth grade teacher who had approximately 12 students who had already made standards in math and was looking for a fun project for them (so she could work more closely with those who were still working to achieve standards).
  2. I spent 15 minutes showing these 12 students the McKillop Elementary book reviews using Glogster. I then showed them Xtranormal.com.
    1. Warning: not everything on the site is appropriate for school or free
    2. Warning: students who scrolled by the “bear” picture on the opening page, couldn’t participate.  Oath: We won’t scroll by the bear. Agreed
  3. What’s Xtranormal?  We watched the guided tour (5 minutes) and then I created an Xtranomal sample movie in front of them of a book I had that I knew they all were familiar with.  I showed them the bare minimum and then we previewed.  OOO, AAAHHH
  4. Turned them loose.  They were told that they would have approximately 5 half-hour sessions  over the next week to come to the library in the morning and work on the computers and learn all the other ins and outs of Xtranormal.  They did an amazing job figuring out the text-to-movie site with little intervention from me.  I observed from my station, but let them loose.
  5. Turning the books into reviews.  I picked 12 well-written reviews for the students to turn into movies.  It was a great opportunity to for them to see how third graders write and see the world (and for them to learn about a new picture book!).  They wanted desperately to “fix” the stories.  I told them the only fixes they could make were to correct spelling (because spelling did count when working in Xtranormal.com).  They then practiced (but no saving yet).  They spent the next session with these 12 students and created their book reviews online while also helping the third grade student make better sense (in some cases) of their book review.
  6. Similar to creating PowerPoint presentations with elementary students, the “whiz bang” of Xtranormal took over in some cases taking away from the book reviews, but it was a great start and both groups loved it!
  7. Not all finished, but we did get some of them published on the free site.  It was a great end of the year activity keeping both groups engaged.

Samples are posted in two batches at: http://www.xtranormal.com/profile/2564137/?listid=12298527

I also created a summer message to my students on my webpage using Xtranormal.com.


Cool site indeed!

KNiebuhrGuest post from Kathy Niebuhr
Lakeview Elementary School
Albert Lea, MN

Elementary Library Media Specialist (K-6)
District Alternative Teacher Performance Pay Coordinator
Licensed 7-12 Business Education Teacher


What are other cool ways you can motivate your students to be creative with their book reviews?

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Shelly Terrell

Shelly Sanchez Terrell is a teacher trainer, instructional designer, adjunct professor, and the author of The 30 Goals Challenge for Teachers: Small Steps to Transform Your Teaching and Learning to Go: Lesson Ideas for Teaching with Mobile Devices, Cell Phones and BYOT. She has been recognized by the ELTon Awards, The New York Times, the Ministry of Education in Spain, and Microsoft’s Heroes for Education as an innovator in the movement of teacher-driven professional development and education technology. Recently, she was named Woman of the Year 2014 by Star Jone’s National Association of Professional Women and awarded a Bammy Award as a founder of #Edchat, the Twitter chat that spurred over 400 teacher chats. She has trained teachers and taught learners in over 25 countries and has consulted with organizations worldwide such as UNESCO Bangkok, The European Union aPLaNet Project, Cultura Iglesa of Brazil, the British Council in Tel Aviv, IATEFL Slovenia, HUPE Croatia, and VenTESOL. She shares regularly via TeacherRebootCamp.com, Twitter (@ShellTerrell), and Facebook.com/shellyterrell. Her greatest joy is being the mother of Rosco the pug.

10 thoughts on “Xtranormal: Text to Speech Video—A Few Uses

  1. I think Xtranormal is pretty powerful tool for making quick whiz-bang presentations as you put it.
    I’d have to say this is a great way of utilizing it to connect two groups of students and get them working together. What a smart idea and thanks for the post.

  2. Hi Kathy,
    Thanks for sharing your experience using xtranormal.
    I discovered xtranormal about a year ago. I used it to present some of the movie reviews my students wrote. I can’t teach that class in a CALL room, so I did it myself and posted the movies on YouTube and on my blog (http://bit.ly/chtpsb). I suppose it was like a reward for the hard work the students had done. I really wanted a chance to actually get the students to use it. Well, I thought I had my chance yesterday, but it didn’t work out. Many of the computers froze while the students were using xtranormal. One of my colleagues is using xtranormal and I’ve spoken a bit to him about it. He’s had some trouble too. The site actually admits that it runs slowly sometimes.
    So, in short, I’m really glad you were able to use it successfully, and I hope that if I try it again, things work out better.

  3. This might sound stupid, but I can’t really find a bear to scroll by…except the one that offers characters…maybe something has changed?

  4. HI- A cool site to engage students I agree, however How do you get around the purchasing of extra xp points? 300xp free only does one film? Any ideas would be appreciated. Great now u can set to education settings to assist with appropriate content. Thanks MR J

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