Building Outside the Blocks™ (BOB) is the overarching term that best describes all of Noa Daniel's work. When she first coined the phrase, it referred to an approach that she developed that uses personalizing projects to help students build skill, autonomy, community and connection in minimal class time. Now, BOB has come to mean and represent so much more, reflecting the power of divergent thinking in approaching learning and building community.
With blocks of time, subjects, and units, teaching can feel like a profession of compartments. These blocks can organize time, but they can also be confining. So much is possible when you understand the blocks and build beyond them. The WHY of BOB is about building learning experiences that are both differentiated and personalizing.
Using the Building Outside the Blocks approach helps to teach a variety of content and learning skills while contributing to a supportive and collaborative class community. BOB is a way to help individuals and schools promote student voice, build capacity and propel engagement. More than anything, using a BOB Approach helps students see and be themselves at school.
BOB projects, referred to as BOBs, focus on student learning goals, including standards-based content and skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, communication, collaboration, and self-management. They help student build a sense of ownership of their work their self direction and agency. BOBs also build connections for individuals to themselves and for the community to each other.
BOBs are teacher-provided, student-driven assignments. Like all Project Based Learning (PBL), BOBs are framed by a meaningful task or question to explore. They are catalysts for a personalizing inquiry that helps to meet a bevy of curriculum expectations and build learning skills in meaningful authentic contexts and speaks to students’ lives and interests.
Unlike traditional Project Based Learning scenarios, BOBs mostly take place at home. While some instruction and lead time may be required, BOB projects take little class time. It takes around 5 minutes for each BOB project presentation, yet students spend hours preparing on their own self- directed time. With no more than 3 presenters on a given day, this high yielding strategy is especially useful for teachers trying to do more with less class time.
Students present to and hear feedback from their class. The classroom is an active learning community of "coaches” who articulate the success criteria through formative feedback in the form of questions, comments, and critiques celebrating accomplishments and encouraging next steps. The teacher guides and is a creative collaborator in the process as well as a facilitator of the presentation experience. Along with a rubric, formative feedback is given in writing to clarify next steps.
BOBs are ways for learners to bring a piece of themselves to a school assignment by allowing them to have a say in what they produce as well as when they share it with the class. The teacher determines the overall timeline of the assignment including presentation dates. BOBs are personalizing as opposed to personalized. A framework is provided, but the rest is up to the students.