Xxtranormal is an animation tool that allows you to create a scene using one or two actors. You simply choose the set, your actors, and then start typing. You can put it on the default option for the camera, or you can be more artistic and move the camera the way you like, add facial expressions or have the characters point. For my Xtranormal video, I left it on the default option and I am happy with the way the camera focused on the two different characters and with how it panned in and out. Students will have fun working with the different options.
I signed up for the free version which basically allows you to produce two no-frills videos. The teacher account is quite expensive in my opinion.
Xtranormal for Education allows you to work within your own class which means that students' work is not open to the public. It also has grading tools that you can use and a system in place that gives you access to students' accounts. Unfortunately, Xtranormal does not offer a free trial period for a teacher +student account, so I am not sure how the grading tools or the organization system works.
Here is my creation with Xtranormal.
If you had no budgetary concerns, or perhaps a grant from PAC to buy special subscriptions to Web 2.0 tools, I would recommend Xtranormal as a fun digital storytelling tool. It would be great to use as a final product for say a biography of an influential or important person. The research could be presented in the form of an interview. I think that Xtranormal would be appropriate for middle school grades, but depending on the group, it could work with students as young as grade 4. These videos would just be a lot simpler than videos produced by older students.