BAP066 Noa’s BOBs! You too can Build Outside the Blocks

Think you don’t have enough time for meaningful projects? Restricted by curriculum blocks or grading timelines?  Then you need to know about Noa Daniel and her innovative approach to instruction. She showed me how  to build outside the blocks and it changed everything!

You can listen to this episode right here or in your favorite podcast app.

Noa is an educator and an education consultant.  Her Building Outside the Blocks (BOB) approach had a huge impact on my practice and I will forever implement the things I learned from her.  In fact, the majority of my students would tell me that her “BOBs” were the most powerful parts of the school year for them.

I first heard Noa on Derek Rhodenizer’s Beyond the Staffroom show a few years ago.  I immediately began implementing BOB projects and using the approach Noa was describing. The results were amazing. On the show, Noa explains how the students spend hours of their own time working on them… because they WANT to.  I am here to attest to this.

You may be skeptical, we understand, but I would challenge you to take a look at the BOBs and try them for yourself.  Noa has done them with content classes and I used them with ESL. The concept can work with any standards.  Check out Noa’s website where she shares about 20 of these projects:

Here is a video of a newcomer, Natalia, presenting her “Personal Playlist” project.  This video gives just a few highlights but her entire presentation takes only 5 minutes.  All of the presentations take only 5 minutes.  But again, hours of work went into them.

“ELs come with so many rich experiences.  When you invite them to share those, the challenge of the language itself is minimized because they are seen as so much more than language learners.” – Noa Daniel

With her permission, I have adapted two of the projects to include sentence frames for English Learners.  Here are planning pages for the What’s in a Name and the Personal Playlist project:


Want even more explanation on BOBs?  Check out this #MADPD video where Noa explains it in detail:

Noa does so many things!  We talk the OnEdMentors show that Noa hosts.  It began as a mentor show but it has grown to so much more. Here is an ELL episode where Noa interviewed Valentina Gonzalez, Brad Womak, Sandeep and Virginia Lowe about welcoming EL Learners into your classroom.

I hope you have a chance to try some of Noa’s projects and learn about the other great things she is doing in the field.  We didn’t even get to touch on her work on the Mentoree project where she is helping connect mentors and mentees in the education field.

One more big thanks to Noa for being my guest and for all she is adding to the field!

BAP065 Alycia Owen, International Educator

What are the benefits and challenges of taking your talents abroad to teach English Learners in another area of the world?

In this episode, we hear from Alycia Owen, who is impacting students from the classroom as an ELD Specialist.  She is also a Literacy Coach, Workshop Presenter and Department Head at her school in Guangzhou, China. You can find the show on your favorite podcast app or listen to it right here:

Listen to “BAP065 Alycia Owen, International Educator” on Spreaker.

She is a fantastic Twitter PLN member that I have learned from for years.  You too can find her on Twitter sharing great resources and ideas for English Learners!  Click here to find her. She is @Alycia_Owen

Alycia is my guest for this VoicEd anniversary show. We talk about teaching English abroad and Alycia offers insight from the teacher and the parent point of view.

Alycia was born in the USA and became a teacher here in the states.  She and her husband are both educators and made the decision to take their young family abroad to raise their children with rich cultural experiences.  I am inspired by her explanation of values she was trying to instill in her children.  Their lives are filled with opportunities to learn about new cultures and to appreciate our differences and to realize how many similarities we all have.

We discuss other benefits and also challenges that exist for educators who move to a different culture or geographic location to teach English.  Alycia tells us that her life has been filled with many more ups than downs.  But she also wants people to know about the many resources available to support parents when they are raising their children in a new culture.  She suggests we Google Third Culture Kids or TCK to find more information.

Here is a quick Wikipedia description:

Alycia is not kidding!  A quick Google search reveals an abundance of information, places to connect and other resources for the TCK or Third Culture Kid.

Alycia and I discussed the importance of taking time to honor the names given to our students.  Alycia had a great tip for teachers of ELs:  She suggests learning Hello and Thank You in their naive language and we’ll be golden!Bitmoji Image

We both agreed that it doesn’t need to be a perfect pronunciation when we attempt any of our students’ native language words or phrases.  Alycia shared stories of her challenges in learning Mandarin and the anecdote underscored the beautiful experience and relationship building that happens when you speak to a person in their native tongue.

Before our chat was over,  we were joined by Sherry Liptak from Chilliwack, British Columbia.  We were thrilled to get a call-in listener on this LIVE show and Sherry happens to be one of our PLN members as well.  She is another one always sharing great advice so be sure to follow here at @SherryTeacher. 


We had a lot of great conversation and before we were through, I asked them for some Green light and Red light activities for teachers working with English Learners.  Tan Huynh gave me the idea of using Green Light (things to do more of), Yellow Light (things to do less of) and Red light (things to stop doing) strategies on this show.  We ran out of time for too many but here are a few Alycia and Sherry recommend:

Things to Do More of:

  • Getting the students talking in low stress ways… even if for small moments.
  • As a teacher, take thoughtful risks.  Pronouncing students names, allowing parents to come in, other risks.

Things to Stop Doing:

  • Giving “busy work”, Look for Meaningful or Authentic Opportunities to Use English
  • Stop calling on the students with their hands raised only.  There is a place for that, but please get more proficient with structured conversations like QSSSA.

Big thanks to both these ladies for joining me for this episode.  I got so much out of it!

I’m thrilled to get feedback like this below from Katy Schain.  Our PLN is really the best!