SMARTS Strategy Highlight: Top 3 Hits (Part 2)

Two students seated next to each other reviewing paper assignments

Addressing recurring mistakes in assignments is a challenge many students face. How can we teach students to analyze their work and develop personalized checklists for frequent errors? In this three-part blog, we’ll take a close look at Top 3 Hits, a SMARTS strategy that empowers students to identify, understand, and rectify their most frequent errors, thereby transforming these missteps into catalysts for academic growth.

In part two of this series, we’ll discuss how to teach the strategy itself. (Part one defined self-monitoring, self-checking, and focus correction areas (FCAs); part three will explore options for independent practice, wrap-up and review, and extensions.)

As a reminder, you can access the complete SMARTS Top 3 Hits strategy here:

Top 3 Hits Lesson Summary

Students use previously graded assignments to analyze their most common errors and make a list of their Top-3-Hits for checking their future assignments.

Learning Objectives

  1. Determine the errors they tend to make.
  2. Develop a list of Top-3-Hits to avoid making those errors in the future.

Teacher Preparation

Review the PowerPoint presentation before teaching the lesson and add any additional information that may be relevant for your students. A week or so before you teach this lesson, ask students to collect some previously graded assignments. Depending on your content area, you may ask students to collect writing assignments or work from a specific unit. Ideally, it is good for students to have a few assignments to choose from.

It is crucial that these assignments reflect their own work so they can apply their personalized Top 3 Hits. Students will also need copies of various handouts that are included in the lesson plan.

Metacognitive Activator

Ask students to take out their strategy notebooks and reflect: What is the difference between self-monitoring and self-checking? How have they used a self-checking or self-monitoring strategy since the last lesson? What exactly did they do? Did they find it helpful?

Guided Instruction

Click through PowerPoint slides 8–13 to show students an example of the “Top-3-Hits” strategy. In this example, Enrique is a student who did poorly on a math test and wants to know what he can do to improve. His teacher has given him an Error Analysis sheet on which he can document both the type and the frequency of his mistakes. From there, he will create his “Top 3 Hits,” a list of likely errors that he should look for as he takes future tests. He will develop a remembering strategy for his “Top-3-Hits,” and he can record that strategy at the top of future tests.

Then, students get a chance to practice the Top 3 Hits strategy on a sample student’s work. Distribute either the “Layer of the Atmosphere Sample Test” or one of the sample paragraphs to students. As a class, begin to analyze the mistakes the student made. Click through the PowerPoint slides, or look at the teacher handout, for a model. As a class, determine what the most common types of errors this student is making. Why did the student make these mistakes? Once you have finished analyzing the errors, see if you can come up with the “Top 3 Hits” mnemonic to help the student remember how to take tests successfully.

  • Caitlin Vanderberg, M.Ed., SMARTS Associate

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum:

Research Institute for Learning and Development:

About the Author

Caitlin Vanderberg, Ed.M., is a SMARTS Associate and an Educational Specialist. She leads the development and piloting of the MetaCOG Surveys & Toolkit and provides academic support to elementary and middle school students with learning, attention, and executive function challenges. Before joining ResearchILD in 2020, Caitlin worked as an assistant elementary school teacher and with many arts education programs. Caitlin holds an Ed.M. in Mind, Brain, and Education from Harvard University Graduate School of Education.