Dana Murphy

Dana Murphy has been an educator for 17 years in Illinois. She was an elementary teacher for eight years and coached for nine. Dana is now in a fifth-grade classroom.  Dana wrote for the Two Writing Teachers blog for many years.

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Balancing Conferences and Small Groups

Balancing small groups and conferences is essential for transferring learning from lessons and units, and it’s one of the trickiest tasks for teachers. Dana Murphy explains how she works toward balance in her classroom, weighing everything from the timeline of the unit to the intensity of the minilesson.

Fifth-Grade Reading Conference: Previewing

Dana Murphy confers with Krisha over her reading, talking about the value of using a book’s back cover for previewing.

Fifth-Grade Group: Understanding Characters

Dana Murphy meets with a group of fifth graders to explore character development in their reading.

Minilesson: Revising Writing

Dana Murphy leads a minilesson in fifth grade on revising narrative writing.

Fifth-Grade Vocabulary Group

Dana Murphy meets with a group of fifth graders to work on strategies for understanding unknown words.

Writing Partners

Partner work is an essential component of many literacy workshops. Dana Murphy explains how she is intentional in building thoughtful routines and expectations for partner work in her fifth-grade classroom.

Building Conversation Skills in Book Clubs

Fifth graders use a visual tool to help them build on each other’s ideas in book clubs. They are applying a strategy demonstrated in an earlier minilesson.

Minilesson: Building Conversations in Book Clubs

Dana Murphy leads a minilesson on book club conversations, using a fishbowl strategy and building blocks to support more sophisticated conversations.

It’s Not You, It’s Me

Dana Murphy has wise words for any coach who wonders why some teachers aren’t welcoming them into their classrooms. Her honesty will help build your patience and trust in the early days of your relationships with teachers.

Writing Endings Minilesson in Fifth Grade

A classic anchor text for many teachers is Charlotte’s Web. In this week’s video, Dana Murphy seamlessly integrates a brief excerpt from it into a writing minilesson on endings in her fifth-grade classroom.

Reinforcing Workshop Norms

In this quick video, Dana Murphy shows how she leads her fifth graders with a kinesthetic reminder of workshop norms before beginning independent work.

Fifth-Grade Small Group: Paragraphs

Dana Murphy meets with a group of fifth graders to help students develop paragraphing skills, using a peer’s mentor text.

Teaching Conventions in Small Groups

Dana Murphy finds it is best to teach conventions in small, targeted groups in her fifth-grade classroom. She explains how she designs and leads these groups.

Writing Share Circle in Fifth Grade

Here are some excerpts from a writing share circle in Dana Murphy’s fifth-grade classroom. Each student shares a one- to two-sentence excerpt from the writing they completed during the day’s workshop.

Circle Share

Sometimes those times when we “wing it” because we don’t have plans can lead to the most profound learning. Dana Murphy dreams up a quick circle share, and what follows is magic.

Minimizing Interruptions During Workshops

Dana Murphy explains why a system for minimizing interruptions is essential in her fifth-grade classroom, and how she keeps the process of creating and using it as simple as possible.

A New System for Anchor Charts

Dana Murphy develops a love-hate relationship with the faded anchor charts peeling away from her classroom walls. She finds a move to anchor charts in a sketchbook and a website for chart images improves the quality of her charts and their usefulness.

A Better Status of the Class

Dana Murphy finds that adding numbers of pages to her status-of-the-class list for reading makes all the difference in assessing students’ growth and needs as readers.

Setting and Using Classroom Norms

Class promises, rules, and norms—most teachers set them at the start of the year. But how can we make sure students live them? Dana Murphy shares some tips from her fifth-grade classroom.

A Homework-Free Classroom

Dana Murphy looks at homework from the twin perspectives of mom and teacher, and finds she hates it from both views.

Using a Strategy Notebook in Small-Group Instruction

So many needs for groups, and so little time. Dana Murphy finds that a strategy notebook is invaluable as a teaching aid in her fifth-grade small groups.

Student-Centered Notes

Dana Murphy discovers that what works for one student doesn’t work for another when it comes to note-taking. She provides options and then hosts a gallery walk so everyone can discover what works best for them.

Alternatives to Graphic Organizers

Dana Murphy is dismayed by the ways graphic organizers can sometimes limit student creativity. She uses writing notebooks and a few other strategies to begin to wean her fourth graders from depending too much on organizers.

Forming Groups Using a Planner

Dana Murphy explains how her small-group planner is an essential tool for organizing groups in her fourth-grade classroom.

Ms. Perfectly Nice

Dana Murphy understands the quiet go-along teacher she meets in professional development settings, if only because she sometimes was that person in the past. She shares strategies for challenging those agreeable folks to speak up and reflect more deeply on their practice.

Doing the Writing in a Unit

One way to keep your instruction fresh in a required writing unit is to take on the tasks and topics yourself. Dana Murphy finds completing the assignments herself is well worth her time, and gives her a treasure trove of notebook entries to use in her conferring.

I’m Already Doing This

“I’m already doing this,” a teacher groans. And the literacy coach groans inwardly at the same time, because they usually aren’t doing anything resembling the innovation being discussed. Dana Murphy explains how she uses validation and questions to move beyond this conversation killer in professional development settings.

Using Norms in PLCs

Dana Murphy concludes her series on norms, explaining how to keep norms alive throughout the year so that you don’t have to experience the awkwardness of reprimanding colleagues at meetings.

And This Makes Me Think

Dana Murphy considers how teachers can make writing workshop routines more cozy and like writing at home.

Setting Norms in PLCs

There are always norms in groups. Shouldn’t you be the leader in making sure they are positive ones? Dana Murphy shares the process she uses and gives an example.

Conferring Notes

When it comes to conferring notes, form needs to follow function. Dana Murphy quit looking for the perfect template, and started focusing on what kinds of notes are most helpful.

Authentic Reading in Kindergarten

Dana Murphy realizes the best way to introduce students to reading in kindergarten is to apply the principles that work at home with her own children.

Peer Observations with a Purpose

Dana Murphy works with teachers to design a peer observation checklist to ensure everyone shares the same expectations and understanding.

Settling In

Dana Murphy shares one of her favorite classroom coaching tips: explaining the value of settling-in time at the start of literacy workshops.

Fresh Starts Through Community Building

Early January is a great time for relationship resets in classroom communities. Dana Murphy finds community building activities may be more helpful than just a review of classroom rules and norms.

Writing Empathy

Dana Murphy explains why teachers can have true empathy with student writers only if they write themselves, and chronicles the difference between a typical and an empathetic response in a writing conference.

A Yearlong Coaching Calendar

Dana Murphy too often finds herself feeling like she's begging to go into classrooms. The solution? Create a yearlong schedule and put the onus on teachers to sign up for a coaching cycle.

Kid-Watching as a Coaching Move

Dana Murphy explains why kid-watching is often the most effective strategy for her time in classrooms, and how she uses her notes with teachers.

Graphics and Coaching Opportunities

Dana Murphy uses visually appealing graphics to entice teachers to enlist in coaching and professional development sessions.

Protecting Your Coaching Time

Dana Murphy reflects on some of the mistakes she made early in her coaching career, as well as what her standards are now for making the best use of limited time.

Starting a Coaching Cycle: The First Meeting

Dana Murphy outlines a simple process for building trust and shared vision in the first meeting before the launch of a coaching cycle.

Sketchnoting as a Response to Reading

Dana Murphy tries sketchnoting during professional development, and soon finds herself sharing the fun technique with students. They hone their skills during read alouds and while annotating texts.

Dealing with Side Conversations

It's hard to judge the engagement of teachers during professional development sessions when there are side conversations going on. Dana Murphy has some practical tips for dealing with side conversations in a tactful yet firm way.

The Other Agenda

Dana Murphy shares a simple technique to ensure there is more transfer of new learning strategies from meetings and professional development workshops to classrooms.

Finding a Coaching Model That Works

Student centered? Teacher centered? Dana Murphy finds that one of her most important jobs as a literacy coach is defining her role.

Defining Your Role as a Coach

Dana Murphy finds that coaching is a lot like marriage: it succeeds only when there is a lot of hard work, and actions mirror beliefs.

Using Wait Time in Professional Development

Dana Murphy shares suggestions for both embracing and powering through those awkward silences during professional development sessions.

Making PLCs Work: Shifting the Tone

Dana Murphy shares a simple activity to provoke more authentic conversations and learning in PLCs.

The Words We Use

Dana Murphy looks at a coach's role in helping teachers change negative, nonspecific language used to describe struggling students.

Getting to Know Writers: Using Quotes

Dana Murphy concludes her series on getting to know writers with an activity on responding to quotes. This activity is a great baseline for gauging attitudes and previous  experiences early in the year.

Making PLCs Work: Getting Teacher Input

Dana Murphy shares a simple activity to get teachers invested in professional learning communities.

Getting to Know Writers: The Writing Process Survey

Dana Murphy continues her series on getting to know writers early in the year. In this installment, she explains how to use a simple six-question survey to help teachers and students explore differences in writing routines and habits.

Getting to Know Writers: Introduction

Dana Murphy writes about the litmus tests we give writing teachers to analyze whether or not they are teaching the "right" way, when we might better serve students by focusing on the six truths of writing.

What Are You Working on Today?

Dana Murphy explains why reframing the opening question in conferences with children may be the most important thing teachers can do to foster more independence and stamina.

The Leading Edge

Dana Murphy considers what type of feedback is most helpful to teachers when they are most vulnerable—on the leading edge of trying something new.

On Being Coached

Dana Murphy finds herself analyzing how a colleague encourages her, and in the process reaffirms the value of coaching for everyone.

Exploring the Writing Process

Dana Murphy considers the differences between authentic writing processes and what we teach in schools.

A Coach’s Toolbox: Transcribing Talk

Dana Murphy finds one of the most important tools in her coaching arsenal is transcription. She explains when transcription is effective and gives tips for effective note taking.

“Get a Little on Ya”: Coaching Teachers Through Change

Dana Murphy uses a humorous mantra to remind herself and the teachers she works with that change comes only when you have the courage to try new things even before you fully believe in their value.

What Am I Doing Here?

Dana Murphy questions the value of her participation as a literacy coach in professional development sessions designed solely for teachers, and discovers unexpected benefits.

What Matters Most: Building Relationships

Dana Murphy explains why building relationships with teachers early in the year is important for literacy coaches, even if you are already part of a solid teaching community.

Developing Coaching Skills Together

Dana Murphy explains how she works with other literacy coaches in her district to develop a "toolbox" of coaching skills and strategies together.

Hosting a Family Writing Night

Dana Murphy finds that notebooks are the perfect catalysts for good writing and conversation at a family literacy event.

Reading Minilesson: Theme

Dana Murphy leads a reading minilesson on theme in fifth grade, explaining how students might think more deeply about themes through characters’ problems.

Forming Groups Using a Planner

Dana Murphy explains how her small-group planner is an essential tool for organizing groups in her fourth-grade classroom.

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