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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