Thoughts, Questions, Epiphanies (TQE)

The TQE (Thoughts, Questions, Epiphanies) is a discussion protocol that can be used as a way to engage students to participate in deep conversations about a written, audio or visual text. The teacher assigns a text or a section of a text for silent reading or as homework. Students discuss the text in small groups during the following class period. They use question stems that are posted in the classroom to ensure that their discussions go beyond the factual information in the text. As they discuss, one person in the group notes the thoughts expressed by the group members, the questions that are still lingering in their minds, and any epiphanies that had when reading. Each group records their top two TQEs on the board. The teacher uses the students’ ideas to moderate a whole-class discussion. 


  1. Students read a text or a section of a text individually in class or as homework. 

  2. The following day, the teacher assigns small discussions groups. These discussions are guided by questions and discussion frames as provided by the teacher and posted in the classroom.

  3. Each group chooses the top 2 TQEs and writes them on the board.

  4. The teacher then moderates a whole-class discussion of the reading, using the TQEs that have been written on the board. 

Adaptation for Online/Distance Learning

  1. This is a synchronous activity. 

    The teacher tells the students they are going to work with a written, visual or oral text. 

    The teacher models the process, making sure to be comprehensible to students.

    Students work in pairs or small groups in breakout rooms. They brainstorm a list of as many thoughts, questions, and epiphanies (TQEs) as they can. 

    Each group is asked to share their top 2-3 TQEs from their collective brainstorming with the class. 

    Option 1: Students are randomly called on to share one or more things they saw, which they share aloud, avoiding repeating those already mentioned by classmates.

    Option 2: Students are asked to send their brainstorms to the chat, avoiding repeating those already mentioned by classmates.

    Option 3: Students are asked to post their top TQE using a display tool like Flipgrid. Other students are asked to respond to a certain number of posts. 

    Option 3: Students work individually or in groups on a shared (‘anyone with link can edit’) Google Slides or Google Doc, allowing the teacher to monitor each group or individual’s progress.

    The teacher then moderates a whole-class discussion of the authentic resource. 

    If desired, the teacher could assign the reading and initial brainstorming as individual asynchronous work, allowing synchronous class time to be spent exclusively sharing individual brainstorming first with a group and then with the class, followed by the whole-class discussion based on the results of the brainstorming. To make this activity completely asynchronous, the teacher could choose to host the discussion on a moderated discussion board. 

Helpful Tips

  1. For maximum student engagement, the teacher should consider pausing the discussion every 20-30 minutes to give students time to reflect and/or time to consider additional input. Students might reflect by jotting notes in a graphic organizer, writing questions of interest, etc. Additional input could be provided by giving access to an image, a news headline, a quote from a text, or by giving students time to consult texts/resources they have previously encountered.

  2. This activity works best for classes of students at or above the Intermediate level of proficiency.

  3. Provide both lower-level and higher-level questions stems for the small group discussions and post them in the classroom.


  1. Provide texts that are chunked and annotated for students who are at different levels of proficiency.

  2. Provide texts at the appropriate level for the proficiency level of the students--the teacher may select to assign different texts to different groups.


  1. Question stems (posted in large print in the classroom/on a PPT slide)

  2. (optional) small personal white boards for each group to use