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Deeper Class Discussions with the TQE Method


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Listen to my interview with Marisa Thompson (transcript):

Sponsored by Peergrade and 3Doodler


So much of the learning we do comes from texts: articles, textbooks, novels, and all kinds of online publications. Sometimes, those texts come in less traditional forms; in fact, our use of the word “text” has broadened over time to include things like films, images, and even diagrams. Regardless of what form they come in, texts make up the bulk of how our students experience learning.

But too often, when we assign texts to students, we find that they don’t experience them with much depth. One reason for that may be that we don’t set them up to do that. In many text-based classes (English, history, science), the learning cycle often consists of (1) consuming a section of the text, (2) answering teacher-created questions about the text, (3) taking a test after several sections have been completed.

For years, high school English teacher Marisa Thompson followed this same programming, and got typical results: Some students did the required work, but never seemed particularly invested in the books themselves. Others completed the questions unevenly, sometimes not answering them all, other times copying work from their peers. And when students didn’t do the work, they got calls home and office referrals.

As this pattern repeated itself year after year, Thompson became more frustrated: The texts themselves were wonderful, but students weren’t experiencing them the way they were meant to be experienced. Instead, they had shallow interactions with them, doing whatever surface work had to be done to get a grade.

Marisa Thompson

Finally, she started experimenting with a different approach, and the way she teaches texts now is completely different from the way she used to. Her current approach, which she calls TQE, is similar to Socratic Seminar, where students lead a discussion on a given text, but with a few twists. Since implementing this new approach, Thompson has seen her students reading much more than they used to, and with much more depth than ever before. They are having college-level conversations about books in class, and for the first time, they seem excited about the books they’re reading.

On top of that, Thompson’s prepping and grading work for these class sessions is down to almost nothing.

What I love about this method, and why I’m sharing it here, is that I think it could be applied in a lot of different areas, not just with the study of novels. In any class where students need to read a text in order to learn, something along these lines could be implemented, and I think you’ll find that the learning in your classroom gets much richer as a result. So as you read about TQE, think about how you might be able to apply it in your content area.

The Problem

As an English teacher, Thompson found that her students were experiencing books in a very shallow, grade-focused way.

“(I would) send students home, maybe get them started on Chapter 1, and then, Hey guys, go home and read Chapter 2. Come on back and we’ll talk about it, and here’s your list of questions; you’re going to have a reading quiz. I realized I wasn’t really assessing their reading with homework and quizzes. I was assessing whether or not they did their homework questions.”

This method not only diminished the value of the books students were reading, it also led to other problems. “It made reading seem like a hassle,” Thomspon says. “I started getting a bunch of cheating. One year I had 10 kids copy off each other. It turned this amazing story—this beautiful novel that everybody should read and enjoy and love—into a discipline problem.”

Early Changes

Knowing something had to change, Thompson decided to try grading students only on whether their participation in class indicated that they had read the book.

“I said, ‘Look. We’re going to read this book, and we’re just going to read it and talk about it. You’re not going to have study questions. You’re not going to have any reading quizzes. But I’m going to know if you read or not. I’m going to know.'”

These early discussions were similar to Socratic Seminar, where students came with questions and Thompson mostly observed. When a student participated in a way that demonstrated that he or she had read the book, their names would be crossed off of a chart. “And that was it,” Thompson says. “The standard says, Be able to read and analyze at grade level. And if they’re doing that, I mean, yeah, cross their name off. Move on.”

For students who scored low on the discussion or who weren’t initially comfortable with active participation, Thompson offered alternative means of assessment. “I said, hey, if I’m wrong with your score, then we need to come up with some sort of alternative: They were used to taking annotations, taking notes on their thoughts while they read—you can show me those. You can sit down and have a conversation just one-on-one, or you can take a test. So if you got an eight out of 10, and you’re like, ‘No, I want the 10 out of 10,’ I have a multiple-choice test on the book.”

Most of the time, Thompson’s initial score on the discussion turned out to be accurate. “I did have a lot of students who had a B for their assessment, and they’re like, No, I want the A. Great. And they took the test and then it was cute, because they were like Yeah, I didn’t really read all of it. So my assessment was, on average, about 3 or 4 percent higher than what they were normally getting on their tests.”

Right away, Thompson started to see changes in how her students were reading. “I had students who started reading more than they were assigned, and they were finishing the book early,” she says. Some were even reading ahead.

Over time, Thompson refined her approach adding small-group time before the large-group discussions, offering scaffolding to help students develop better questions, and structuring student contributions so that the richest questions got the most discussion time.

These changes have so elevated the level of discourse that Thompson sometimes feels like she’s teaching college class. “And that’s exactly what I tell them: ‘What we just did, that was a collegiate literature course. That was amazing. You could walk into a college course and have this discussion.’ And you can see that they’re enjoying it.”

The TQE Method

Here is the approach Thompson uses now, step by step:

1. Students Complete Assigned Reading at Home

Usually, this will be a segment of a longer text, like a few chapters in a novel. Students who show up having not completed the reading are invited to finish up in the hall during small group discussion (step 2) to catch up. They are welcome to return to class for the discussion when they finish.

2. Small Group Discussions (15 minutes)

When they arrive in class, students get into small groups, where they have 15 minutes to share thoughts, lingering questions, and epiphanies (TQEs) they have about the reading. Early in the year, Thompson provides stems to help students generate these (see below), encouraging them to move from the more simplistic ideas on the left to the more complex ones on the right.


3. TQEs on the Board

By the time the 15 minutes is up, each group needs to choose their top 2 TQEs from the group and write them on the board. Although these are meant to serve as the basis for the group discussion, they are not necessarily used as is.

“If they put something on there that is not at the quality or as thought-provoking as we need it to be for the class to discuss, we’ll edit it together, the 40 of us,” Thompson explains. “So it becomes a writing lesson.”

Thompson also insists that when discussing a text, students use the author’s name. When discussing Of Mice and Men, for example, she started by having students repeat the name “Steinbeck” five times. “I love Lenny and George. I love Lenny,” she told them. “but he’s totally fictional. So when you start asking questions like, ‘Why did George do that?’ George doesn’t exist.” 

Instead, she has students practice asking questions like, “Why did Steinbeck have George do that?” “What theme is Steinbeck trying to convey to the rest of us by having his character do that?”

“It’s not about the character,” she explains. “It’s not about the character’s motivation, it’s the author’s purpose in providing that motivation for the character.”


In small groups, students choose their top two THOUGHTS, lingering QUESTIONS, or EPIPHANIES (TQEs)
and write them on the board for the large-group discussion.


4. Class Discussion of TQEs

Thompson then moderates a whole-class discussion of the reading, using the TQEs that have been written on the board. This takes about 40 minutes of class time—she teaches on a block schedule, so there’s plenty of time to dig in. When the class is actively studying a novel, they will have these conversations in every class meeting.

As for grading, Thompson simply records when students participate, and that’s it. “I have a chart with their little pictures,” she explains, “and I cross them off as I go. So I’m not necessarily grading them every single day. My student Sally might have participated a ton one day, and skipped the next day. But my standard-based grading says she is reading and analyzing at at least grade levelI don’t need to score each of my 40 kids every single day.”

“And the amount of planning is nil,” Thompson adds. “I’m not creating, I’m not copying, I’m not collecting, I don’t need to waste my time. My prep is reading before bed every night.”

What Student-Centered Learning Looks Like

“We have all these really great aphorisms, these quotes about, ‘Students should own their learning,’ and ‘Empower students,'” Thompson observes. “And it’s like, well that’s great, but how in the heck do we do that?”

Since starting the TQE process, Thompson has seen true student-centered learning in action: Students are in charge of the content of the discussions, and the ability to participate fully has become its own motivator for completing the homework.

“The peer pressure of Everyone’s discussing this book—that becomes cool. To have an idea, to have an opinion. So the student comes in, and all of a sudden it’s, “Wait, I read that part, and I think this,” you know? And you want to talk about empowering a student? You just turned that student into a part of the classroom community.” ♦


To read Marisa Thompson’s original blog post about TQEs, click here. To read more of her work, visit her blog at


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  1. Mary Belknap Ph.D. says:

    I love the manner in which TQE moves from basic level replies to more complex and higher order thinking guided by the teacher and others. I am going to adopt this in my college classroom.
    Bloom would also agree with this constructive method to encourage reading and thought provoking responses!!

    • I’m so glad you found the TQE Process useful and I’d love to hear your results!

    • Karie says:

      I think this sounds awesome! I teach 5th grade students and I have 3 classes of about 28 students each. Each class has a very wide range of abilities. Some are on a 2nd grade reading level, some at grade level, and some above. Would this work for me?

      • I think it works especially well for students who are below grade level. They can have success with this process because they can participate in the discussion. They can be encouraged for their contributions about connections and see the importance and relevance of reading from shared epiphanies.

        I hope this helps! Please let me know how it goes!

        All the best,

  2. Jodi R says:

    I love the idea of this! Have you had an opportunity to scaffold this for students learning English and/or students receiving special education services?

    • This process has worked in advanced and inclusive classrooms. The “emerging leaders” I’m referring to several students with IEPs and other accommodations who thrived. The students who said they “finally felt smart?” Students who were redesignated.

      It seems when we focus on the stories, their lessons, and their relevance, instead of the completion of a related homework assignment, more students feel like they can contribute.

      Thank you for the question! I go into more detail and provide resources in the blog post Jennifer Gonzalez references, “” Please get in touch if you have any further questions or ideas!


    • This process has worked in advanced and inclusive classrooms. The “emerging leaders” I’m referring to several students with IEPs and other accommodations who thrived. The students who said they “finally felt smart?” Students who were redesignated.

      It seems when we focus on the stories, their lessons, and their relevance, instead of the completion of a related homework assignment, more students feel like they can contribute.

      Thank you for the question! I go into more detail and provide scaffolding resources in the blog post Jennifer Gonzalez references, “” Please get in touch if you have any further questions or ideas!


  3. Kirsten says:

    what do you do with the kids that are not interested in sharing, or don’t do the reading. This type of learning is great if all kids are invested.

    • It does take some time, some practice. Several students choose to participate more in the small group discussions and still others prefer to share their annotations or a chat with me instead of engaging in the larger discussions.

      When we first tried the TQE process, I presented it as a great option which would keep the homework down and the grades up (since we wouldn’t have homework, reading quizzes, or a multiple choice test).
      “Of course,” I told them, “it only works if you read and participate. It’s up to you. Want to try it?”

      They jumped at the chance. “We can just talk about it?”

      “Exactly. Like we do in college literature courses.”

      I hope this helps! I go into more detail and provide resources in the blog post Jennifer Gonzalez references, “”

      If nothing else, we know what the traditional gets us and it’s worth trying with one novel. I’d suggest making it the novel that’s a tried-and-true favorite to see if it works. And why not consider letting them read in class? We “get comfy” and read on the floor or sitting on desks. I even read aloud, like story time. Whatever it takes.

      Thank you for the question! Please get in touch if you have any further questions or ideas!


      • Marsye Kaplan says:

        Thanks for sharing TQE. I use a similar process for my online graduate courses. With the importance of the discussions paramount, I realized that when I posted the questions…it was just a typical (not so engaging) Q&A. Now I have the students team up to create the post prompts (under my guidance and for additional credit). This more resembles a class setting where the students actually ask the question and have deep, rich discussions. I have used this format for two semesters. The results are more engaged students, discussing more authentic and real-life scenarios. It has been a win-win!!

      • Lindsay says:

        I can relate to students who share more in small groups–this is how I started having students, in their small groups of 4-5, record their conversations using voice memo or similar app on their phones, then turning it in to me via email or Google Classroom. Then I listen on my own time and assess their learning through what I hear. I can also collect any written notes on the text and compare to what I hear. I do LOVE the idea of continuing to come back to the standard.

        My question is about the nitty gritty of the grade/score. Are you using a rubric with a scare out of 10? How do you know when you’re hearing an 8, versus a 6 or a 10? Love to see a tool you recommend.

        • I often find rubrics limiting the learning but providing minimums, maximums, and vague descriptors.

          Perhaps it is because I am used to the process and know my expectations that I do not use a delineated rubric. Or perhaps it is because the points are minimal compared to the other skills we practice and their corresponding points.

          I was inspired by the Single-Point Rubric and the move to Mastery & Standards-based Grading. I read the standard associated with reading comprehension and that is an “8” for me. Go beyond this and earn a 9 or 10. Don’t quite reach it or don’t reach it consistently? This would be a 7. But I err on the side of the student if I’m not sure by asking students to provide more assessment samples: annotations, 1:1 discussion, etc. They can also take a test to prove my score needs adjusting.

          I hope this helps! I think the best thing we can do for our students is whatever we know to be the best for our students. I wish I had a definitive answer!

          Take care,

  4. Thank you Marisa and Jennifer for introducing THE to educators. I am definitely using it in my classroom on a more regular basis. I needed that boost from an expert and this was the one that will get me going. BTW, I’m a teacher in life science and health care and med focus courses and I know that this will work for my students.
    Thanks again and all the best for the new academic year.

    • I am so happy to hear that you’re certain it’ll be successful in your class. If you have any suggestions for those teaching similar subjects, please share!

      Have a great week!


  5. Tim Riley says:

    When I was finishing my MA in English 2 years ago I was interested in finding research on how to guide students on reading like writers. Listening to Marisa’s interview I thought of this. Is this what TQE is doing?

    • Jeremy Greene says:

      I think you will find Mike Schmoker’s 2nd edition of Focus to be of help for this. He uses Kelly Gallagher’s work a lot.

  6. Norkhalilie Zulkifli says:

    Thanks for sharing. I am going to try it in my Biology class.

  7. Abigail Baffet says:

    This is really great. I am looking forward to trying this in my English literature class in France (high school). I was wondering how to get in touch about a collaborative project if you are interested (i don’t have Twitter :/ )
    Wouldn’t it be great to do a book and TQE s with international collaboration ?

    • Abigail! YES! I’d love to do that! I am currently working on something along these lines with a Blog Share. Students will write and different classes from all over will read, comment, share, etc.

      I’ll contact Jennifer Gonzalez to see if I can get the email you provided when leaving a comment!

      Talk soon!

    • Abigail (and any other teachers interested in a Blog Exchange or International TQE study of a novel),

      I figured out a faster way!

      If you subscribe to my website, I’ll get your email address: Scroll to the bottom and enter your email!

      All the best,
      Marisa Thompson

  8. joyous moi says:

    I’m really excited about this and want to try it in my 4th grade class. I really want to build my kiddos into passionate readers and so i’m willing to try anything!

    • It will take some practice but students get used to this rather quickly!

      It is also great following a quick write or as a bell assignment to review the last class’ relevance. The Grant Wiggin’s article is a wonderful resource if you’re interested in what got me reflecting.

      Thanks for listening!


  9. Linda Ryan says:

    Thanks for sharing Marisa and Jennifer! I love the idea of having students direct the conversation about the reading. I’m going to incorporate this strategy in my Environmental Science course.

    • I’m glad you heard some ideas which will work for your subject! I think this process is universal, but often teachers of the subjects will ask for samples, materials, or experience. If you can share your experience, I’d love to pass it on to others!

      All the best,

  10. Andrea Christoff says:

    I enjoyed listening to this podcast. I am curious to hear how this might be used in a social studies classroom. Can you use it with non-fiction reading?

    • Hi Andrea! Somebody over on Jenn’s FB page actually asked a very similar question. Jenn shared that in social studies/history, there’s still a story that kids will have a lot of reactions to. You can also use lots of different texts that are on the same subject and see how they can compare.

    • I have used it for fiction, non-fiction, poetry, Socratic-style discussions and topics.

      In essence, it’s information provided, your thoughts, questions, and connections/relevance.

      It works for anything!

      I hope you and your students enjoy the process!


  11. Elise Tessier says:


    I LOVE this!! Our middle school is required to have 2 or 3 novels going in a classroom at a time. Besides grouping the kids by novel, how might this work on a discussion level? Interested to hear what you think.

    • Multiple novels at a time is required… How interesting!

      I think I would ask students for a list of 15+ thematic ideas and then find non-fiction, short stories, speeches, and poetry which include the same themes.

      Something to keep in mind: the TQE method isn’t only for written texts but also videos, music, art, discussions. Anytime you want students to think (which sounds ridiculous), this process can work. Did they experience/observe a Socratic Seminar? Are they analyzing a political cartoon? Did a major event happen over the weekend? Is there a situation at school which needs to be examined? The TQE method will work.

      An example: our first TQE experience this year was covering the topic, “The Reputation of the ‘Teenager.’”

      I hope this helps! Please be in touch if you have any questions or an experience to share!

      All the best,

  12. I wonder about adjusting this process for science, social studies, etc. Consider this after a lab. Have students go through the TQE process but with the focus on what they observed and further questions. In social studies, students could do the same after analyzing primary source documents. I love this!

    • What a great idea! I love it!

      So many have shared how they might use this is their subject area and grade level. I’ll be putting them together this week and sharing with everyone.

      Thanks for sharing!

  13. Kristen Braatz says:

    Thanks for sharing this strategy! I love the alternative forms of participation options that you referenced in the podcast. I have a couple questions.
    1. What do you do when students cannot read the text – not when it is a motivation issue, but when they literally cannot get through it on their own?
    2. Did you take time to teach students how to conversate, set norms, etc. or did that take shape on its own?

    • I’m so happy to hear you found it useful!

      These are great questions.

      1. As the reading comprehension is not my ultimate goal, I am comfortable with students using the audio book, listening as I read aloud, etc. If a student still would not be able to understand the material enough to participate, I would offer alternatives to inspire thoughts, questions, and epiphanies in the topic. (That being said, I would hope the student is receiving all the support necessary to help him or her achieve grade level literacy.)

      2. Yes, we do practice discussion norms and expectations with philosophical chairs and a variety of comically boring topics (Pie or cake? Beach or pool?) and some which inspire stronger emotional responses. We also thoroughly discuss the difference between discussion and debate. Our goal is greater understanding, not winning.

      I hope this helps!

      Take care,

  14. Kimberly says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed your podcast. I think I heard you mention Grant Wiggins. If you did, can you please share the resource that you mentioned of his? If you didn’t, maybe Jennifer can point me in the right direction.

    Thank you!

  15. Vanessa Rosas says:

    I absolutely love this! I teach 6th grade/ 90 minute blocks, so this will be perfect. Would you happen to have a video of your class moving through the process of the TQEs and student led discussions?

  16. Megan says:

    I love this idea and plan to try it with my 6th, 7th, and 8th graders this year. Do you have any tips about timing it out for a 55 minute class period as opposed to a block?

    • I would suggest doing the reading the night before and allowing students to come in with prepared annotations. I would dedicate one class period a week to the TQE process. It covers a variety of skills and includes the in-depth analysis students need to be able to write something meaningful.

      I hope this helps!


  17. Ashley says:

    I am a brand new 5th grade reading teacher, I love this idea of having the students lead the discussion. I have found that I have very high reading students who in the first few weeks have been bored with the basic, read this article together and answer the questions I ask.

    I think this once we begin our novel units in a few weeks will be a great way for them to come in and discuss their thoughts on the chapters we have read. I also love the way you eliminate the character did something and instead having the students learn that it is the author who did this and not the character.

    Thank you so much.

    • Welcome to teaching 5th grade!

      This could be a solution to the problem you describe. You may also consider providing a variety of articles on the same topic which would appropriately challenge your students.

      Perhaps then the groups could do their own group discussions and the epiphanies about the topic could be the class discussion! What do you think about that?

      I hope this helps!

      All the best,
      Marisa Thompson

  18. Guadalupe Tenorio says:

    Thank you very much for sharing those experiences with us, teachers. They are encouraging and inspiring for my lessons.

  19. Michelle Pauls says:

    I tried the TQE in class yesterday. It was the first time, and I was nervous about making it work. I offered prompts for the students to think about. They came up with good sentences to share, but I had difficulty getting the entire group to discuss them. I expected a raucous exchange of ideas, but it was a few individuals doing most of the talking. How can I get more people to get excited and share?

    • Hi Michelle,

      Thanks for the question! I can hear your disappointment, but it sounds to me like a real success for a first time. The students’ TQEs were good, it sounds like, and a few students felt comfortable to discuss the ideas. Can I ask what the “prompts” were? If it felt like study questions to the students, they may have reacted in a similar way as previous classes, but either way, this can take time.

      My students have been answering question lists for years and it is a tough habit to break. Some may be concerned their ideas “aren’t right” or are waiting to see what other students do. It may also be the beginning of the year or a somewhat reserved class…? I wish I knew the answer and I wish I could’ve been there so I could give you more information!

      I hope you consider trying again and letting students practice. Maybe choose an intriguing text, a TED talk, or a current hot topic? Perhaps you could tell them about this process and have them take down their TQEs as you describe it…? I bet they’d be interested in hearing about no quizzes, no novel tests, discuss with your friends, only reading for homework, etc. Let them know if [we’re] successful with this process, we can try it more long term…? It should get them talking and asking questions!

      Maybe try the different variations you’re seeing tried by other teachers? There are many examples on Twitter and I’m retweeting them with #unlimitedteacher. I hope some will reply to you here, too!

      I think you’re so brave to try something new and I know your students appreciate the effort!

      All the best,

  20. Heather Manchester says:

    I used TQE’s with my sixth grade advanced learners the last two weeks and loved it! This is my tenth year teaching “Tuck Everlasting” and I heard insights I’d never heard before.

    I had the groups post their TQE’s on a Google Doc and looked for common big ideas as our daily topic. I also appointed a student to call on people so I could focus on listening, taking notes, and pushing back when needed. I also loved hearing students say, “The author did that because…” as a result of the questions. Of the students who didn’t speak much, about half are opting for the multiple-choice test and half want a one-on-one conference.

    Thanks so much!

    • Hi Heather!

      This is one of my favorite parts about TQE: This is my ____ year teaching “________” and I heard insights I’d never heard before.

      So glad you and your students found it useful!

      I love the twists you made to make it work for you (appointing a student, focusing on responses, looking for trends and thematic ideas in students’ thinking).

      Thanks for sharing! Stay in touch and let us know other tips as you discover them!

      All the best,

  21. Alexandria says:

    I look forward to my Sunday emails from The Cult of Pedagogy. I listened to this podcast last Sunday night, and I created a TQE activity in my class (higher ed- juniors, seniors, and graduate students). I thought it worked well, and this type of activity reinforces the quotes I have seen: “telling isn’t teaching, listening isn’t learning” (original author unknown).

    This activity also gives students the opportunity to practice critical thinking and learn from peers. The TQE activity helps to create opportunities for active learning versus passive consumption or just responding to my questions in-class. I thought it was simple to tailor this activity to my class content.

    • Hi Alexandria,

      Thank you for your reflection. I appreciate the points you make and believe these skills are absolutely necessary.

      It has been wonderful to see teachers of all grade levels finding success in this method! Thank you again!

      All the best,
      Marisa Thompson

  22. Elizabeth says:

    Hi there,
    I teach middle school ELA in a sub-separate (SPED) class. My classes have between 4 and 11 kids. Do you have any suggestions as to how to make TQE meaningful with such a small group?

    • Hi Elizabeth,

      I would get the class talking… a ton. We’re in Week 3 and have discussed “The Reputation of ‘Teenagers’” and “What Matters?” They are topics every student can discuss and lead to deeper discussions: “You said family is #1, which is great, but do your actions support that?” I wander around and play Devils Advocate, I ask “why?” and stay for a bit at the tables to keep conversations going.

      With such a small group, perhaps partners or triads will work well. I’d make sure to mix them up but for the more personal topics I typically keep friends together.

      Intriguing topics and articles always work. I love Rick Reilly’s Half the Size, Twice the Man and there’s a fantastic TED talk called Countdown to the One Word Which Will Change Your Life by Kevin Corcoran, Jr.

      You may also consider splitting the class in half and asking for 3-5 of the best things to come out of their group discussions. I typically present the TQEs from the board and start asking questions. I also sit at the same level as the students and notice participation increases.

      I hope this helps! Let me know how it goes and how you tailor it to your class!

      All the best,
      Marisa Thompson

  23. Jenny says:

    I teach an anthropology elective and I’m always looking for ways to structure class discussions of texts and films. I took your ideas and made my own chart of discussion starters:

    Feel free to adapt it for your own purposes. I follow a strict TQE protocol now and find that it leads to deeper, more analytical conversations. My students are really starting to discuss texts and films at a level expected for college. Thank you!

    • Hi Jenny!

      Thank you, first for trying something new for your students’ benefit, and second for sharing your experience and the material you created.

      I’m glad you are seeing results and that your students are having collegiate style discussions. I would love to see their TQEs! Any tips for teachers wanting to try it for the first time?

      If you are up for sharing some of the students’ TQEs, please tag the images with #unlimitedteacher.

      Thanks again for sharing your experience!

      All the best,
      Marisa Thompson

  24. I used this method with my freshmen after they read “The Necklace” and it worked really well. I’m going to try it with “Frankenstein,” but I’m going to structure it with a couple of passages from the novel that they have to base their questions on. They are passages that they might have skimmed through, and I want them to really focus on them because they’re important.

    • Hi David,

      I think it’s really smart to start with a small piece for practice and reflection before moving into a novel.

      The students will really appreciate your help in focusing their reading when necessary. “Let’s look again at this piece” always leads to intriguing discussions about the text and about reading.

      Thanks for sharing your experience!

      All the best,
      Marisa Thompson

  25. Andrea says:

    Do you have videos that shows this in practice?

  26. Sarah W. says:

    Thank you so much for sharing! I have down this lesson/format of discussion three times now with my 7th grade students over the past two or three weeks discussing the novel we are reading. One class spent the whole class discussion time on one question a group developed. It was amazing to see. I have added “Active Listening Notes” so if students are really uncomfortable speaking in front of the whole class or for students who do not get called on, they are still actively engaged in my class. Again, thank you so much for sharing this technique and being honest with some issues that may happen along the way. It made it so much easier to approach, knowing that it wasn’t perfect and I shouldn’t expect to be perfect either.

    • Hi Sarah!

      I’m thrilled to hear this, as you can imagine! Yes, it is not perfect, but I love it. I’ve been fortunate to have many classes like this and I assure them this is what a college literature course is like.

      I would love to know more about your Actove Listening Notes. Are they annotating the discussion? I do this with what I call Left & Right Annotations. If it’s something else, please share!

      Thanks again for letting me know. I’d love to see their TQEs if you can share a picture on Twitter!

      I wish you many more days like the one you described!


  27. I listened to the podcast and loved the idea, especially the ease with which I could put it into practice. I’ve used TQE a few times now in my Self-paced AP Economics classes at the Singapore American School. It has worked brilliantly. I intend to start implementing it in my Advanced Topics class on Globalization and my course on Behavioral Economics and Game Theory too. Thanks for sharing your ideas!

    • Hi Patrick,

      That’s fantastic! I find it simple to implement, too, and am proud of my classes who are also trying it for their first time. They just requested a novel their advanced English peers are reading; its 3x in length than the one I had planned to read.

      If you’re interested, I’m also piloting an International Student Blog Exchange! I wanted my students to write more and practice certain skills in low-stakes posts with high interest topics (their choice). If you’re interested: So far we’re sharing with several classrooms across the US as well as Argentina, Australia, Japan, Korea, etc.

      Thanks for sharing your experience with TQE! I’d love to see their TQEs if you’re on Twitter!

      All the best,

  28. Justine says:

    My professional background is teaching high school math, but currently I homeschool my children and teach in our homeschool co-op. I co-teach British literature to twenty-four high school students ranging in age from thirteen to seventeen. We implemented book-club-style small group discussions the first week of class and discovered this podcast the following week. My co-teacher and I were so excited because it fit right into the ideas we already were implementing. We tried it out the next week with great success. Only meeting once a week can seem to be a huge disadvantage, but these students are getting so much out of their reading and other work, thanks to the TQE method. We have been absolutely astounded and amazed by their insights and their level of engagement! Frankenstein truly came alive for our students! (Little joke there. Of course our students are now obsessed with correcting people that Frankenstein is not the creature.) We can hardly get the students to stop talking and it is astonishingly deep and on-topic. Thank you so much! I am interested to see how the discussions go on a humor piece (we are reading P.G. Wodehouse next). This next quarter, I am going to attempt to figure out how to implement this with the physics class I teach at our co-op and hope to see similar levels of engagement and depth of understanding.

    • Justine,

      I am thrilled to hear about your experience with this method and the engagement you’re seeing. I love it and my appreciation of literature and education increases with each experience.

      Many of my students read Frankenstein and after experiencing TQE they told me they “wish [they] knew what it was really about.” I told them now that they can read this way, they can always return to it.

      Thank you for your willingness to try something new! I am always encouraged for our future when I hear students having robust discussions. It’s what we all need.

      If you get a chance, I’d love to see some of their TQEs and know what tweaks you made for your students to make it so successful! I am on Twitter or you can get in touch through

      Take care,
      Marisa Thompson

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