Text to Speech Movies for EFL ESL

Yesterday on my Quick Shout blog, I wrote about a new tool called Xtranormal for creating text to speech animated movies. Since then I've had a little time to put together a tutorial video and think about how to use it in the classroom. First I thought I'd show you what extra normal produces.

There is quite a range of characters and backgrounds so the possibilities for creating situational dialogues is terrific and you can also build these scenes into a series, so this would be great for longer projects too. Here's a quick look at how a movie is created.

So how can we use this with our students?
  • We can use it as a novel way to present language in context by creating small scenes for our students to watch.
  • We can get our students to create dialogues for specific contexts. You could even give students specific tasks (Convince your partner that taxis are better than buses - Try to convince your partner to buy shares in Mircosoft and not Apple) get the students to work in pairs, taking it in turns to create each side of the dialogue, then they can show the class their work.
  • You can get students to create news reports and then create a movie of their own news bulletin.
  • You or your students could create monologues of characters telling jokes or stories or reading poems and develop this into an animated talent show.
  • Their is both a rating feature and a comments feature, so once students have finished their work they can look at and rate each others' videos
  • There is also a 'Remix' button on each movie which enables you to grab a copy of someone else movie and make it your own and remix / change it. You could create movies with errors in the script and ask the students to remix the movie and take out the errors.
  • You could create a movie with only one half of the dialogue. Your students would then have to remix it and add the script for the missing person
  • You could create the first scene from a story and get your students to create the next scene.
  • You could show your students scenes from real films or a TV series and then see how much of the scene they can recreate.
  • You could get students to create their own soap opera, adding a new scene each week.
What I like about it
  • Well it's free (at the moment) and it's quick and easy to use?
  • It's a way of giving students a 'finished product' to showcase the language they are learning.
  • It's entertaining and creative.
  • It's a very flexible and adaptable tool and could be used by students (over 13 years old) or by you to create materials for your students. You could use it to create materials for young learners through to business courses.
  • It's a way of getting students to listen and to write.
What I'm not so sure about
  • Well I'm not sure how long it will be free. There are signs that the owners intend to start charging, though no signs of how much or whether there would still b a free option.
  • Some of the voices that create the speech from the text don't always sound 100% real, though in cartoon type animation I think this is reasonably acceptable.
  • Not everyone using the site is doing so for educational purposes, s some of the animations that are already there could be inappropriate for younger learners or offensive to older ones.
Well I hope you find the time to try Xtranormal with your students and by all means share any ideas, tips or materials you create (just add a link in the comments).

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Nik Peachey

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