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Strategy Spotlight: The TQE Method for Deeper Discussions

This method engages students with text in a way that brings about more robust discussions.

By Lani Aquino

In this Strategy Spotlight, an engaging method for helping students explore text is explored via Cult of Pedagogy’s Deeper Class Discussions with the TQE Method. Jennifer Gonzalez shares her introduction to high school English teacher Marisa Thompson’s TQE Method. Thompson found herself frustrated in her students’ lack of interest and exploration of texts. Students were either reading for the moment to answer rote questions or not reading at all. Thompson was looking to find a way to get her students as impassioned and engaged with literature as she was, hence the TQE Method was developed.

With students often copying answers to Thompson’s surfaced questions and looking to reading as a begrudged chore, it was time to make some changes. The development of the TQE Method has students coming to class and excited to discuss their Thoughts, Questions, and Epiphanies, their TQEs. There is a simple 4-step process to get the ball rolling.

Breaking Down the TQE Method

  1. Assigned reading is given for students to complete at home.

    This would typically consist of a lengthier chunk of reading, two or more chapters. Thompson allows students who do not complete this first step to finish their reading in the hallway while the rest of the class moves on to Step 2.

  2. Small groups meet for around 15 minutes to discuss the reading.

    This is where the TQE elements (Thoughts, Questions, & Epiphanies) are explored. Early in the year, Thompson offers students stem questions to get the discussion ball rolling. As the year progresses, the questioning process expands to include more of thoughtful exploration into the author’s drive and reasoning (i.e., What do you like/dislike? vs. What theme is the author creating by using…?).

  3. Each group places their top 2 TQEs on the board.

    These pairings of questions serve as the basis for whole-group discussion. Just because a question makes it to the board does not mean it goes untouched. If there is some revision necessary, Thompson includes the whole group in the editing process for an impromptu writing lesson. These questions always focus on the author’s purpose and motivation. Rather than focusing on the characters, the name most referenced should be the author’s name and his/her intent/purpose.

  4. Whole-group discussion using the TQEs.

    The teacher now takes on the role of moderator as a whole-group discussion commences. Student begin the discussion of the TQE questions that were placed on the board. The teacher is able to easily record participation by marking whether students share responses and ideas. This falls in well with a standards-based grading classroom as the teacher is able to note whether a student is reading and analyzing grade level. It also takes some burdensome planning and prep off the teacher’s plate.

With students leading the discussion, this becomes an excellent example of student-centered learning. As with any new method, a time of learning the ropes and modeling questioning and discussion is warranted. Once the system is in place, teachers like Thompson are rewarded with a classroom capable of robust discussions at a collegiate level.

Applications for Other Areas

  • The TQE Method can easily be applied to any text-rich curriculum. Whether students are discussing historical battles or scientific discoveries, there is a place for TQE.
  • Text explored do not have to be exclusively word-based. Data charts and images can also be used with the TQE Method. Musical scores or artistic collections could be viewed through the same lens as well.

Other Strategies for Deeper Discussions

  • With the implementation of Literature Circles, students are able to take on various roles to ensure multiple facets of the reading are covered.
  • A Gallery Walk allows a number of texts or primary sources to be explored. As with any strategy, discussion guidelines need to be learned. The fishbowl method would work well for doing so.
  • Sometimes a discussion without a sound can be beneficial. Using a Silent Discussion to generate interest and in-depth study of a topic or text can be quite rewarding.

Robust discussion can open the eyes and minds of students to a multitude of new ideas and ways of thinking. By exploring methods that help students dive deep, teachers are able to increase levels of engagement and understanding. Be sure to check back for future Strategy Spotlights that highlight strategies teachers use to impact learning.

If you enjoyed the thoughts and ideas shared here, check out the trainings and tools (for teachers and for families) that we offer.


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