SMARTS Strategy Highlight: Top 3 Hits (Part 3)

A happy student reviewing her assignment.

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 three of this series, we will explore how to follow up on the Top 3 Hits strategy with options for independent practice, review, and extensions. (Part one defined self-monitoring, self-checking, and focus correction areas (FCAs); part two explored how to introduce and teach the Top 3 Hits strategy.)

Download Top 3 Hits Lesson for Free

In Top 3 Hits, 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.

To get started, download the free lesson:

Independent Practice

Repeated application of executive function strategies is the key to mastery. Encourage students to continue reviewing their graded work and complete the error analysis handout (included in the free lesson download). What types of errors did the students make? Were some errors made more frequently than others?

Students may struggle to identify why they made a given error. Ask them questions such as:

  • Was it a content error? Did you misunderstand or forget the concept?
  • Was it a process error? Did you make a mistake in your calculations or in your writing?

Wrap-up and Review

Now that students have identified their most common errors, emphasize the importance of remembering their typical errors so that they are less likely to make these same errors again. For example, students can create a simple mnemonic to remember the errors they make and keep certain items in mind when they take a test or write a paper.


SMARTS Curriculum extensions are an easy way to embed executive function strategies in natural moments within instruction. Extensions require little to no preparation, and they can either stand on their own as a quick mini-lesson or serve as a way to review and reinforce a strategy taught in the full lesson.

The Top 3 Hits lesson includes extensions in:

  • Creating strategic learning communities
  • Reflection/self-advocacy
  • Test strategies
  • Projects
  • Math/science
  • ELA/social science

Try It Out

We encourage you to try out the Top 3 Hits lesson and share your questions, comments, and feedback.

  • 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.