The “Categorize Your Mistakes” Exercise
- Category: Uncategorized
Whom is this for?
- Students whose homework or practice test results are lower than expected
- High-achieving students whose “random” mistakes are holding them back
- Students who blame the question/test instead of their own deficiencies
What do we use it for?
This exercise forces students to self-diagnose their own mistakes from test material across various sections. Rather than just math or just reading, etc., it can help pinpoint students’ flaws across the board.
What does it look like?
As you review mistakes/incorrects in test material, your student will keep track of the source of each mistake into the categories of “Content,” “Process,” “Reading,” or “Oops.”
How do you do it?
- Before you start correcting homework, vertically divide (so you have wide sections, not skinny sections) one sheet of paper into the four categories listed above. Give it to your student and explain that you’ll be categorizing mistakes.
- Describe what “Content” mistakes are: mistakes made because you just didn’t know the stuff involved.
- Describe what “Process” mistakes are: they knew the content involved, but they didn’t execute the process right. Examples: in English they didn’t use like/dislike first, in Math they didn’t draw a picture and tried to do it in their head, in Reading they didn’t look back, in Science they didn’t find the connection in the passage.
- Describe what “Reading” mistakes are: they 1) didn’t read the question correctly and answered a different question that wasn’t asked, 2) didn’t read their chosen answer correctly, or 3) didn’t read and consider the rest of answer options.
- Describe what “Oops” mistakes are: you just messed up.
- Ask the student how “bad” they should feel about each kind of mistake.
- Content? You don’t have to feel bad about something you don’t know (for example: Math unit circle, English topic you haven’t covered, Science question type, etc.).
- Process? You should kind of feel bad. You know better.
- Reading? You know what you need, you just need to answer the question asked with the answer that fully fits.
- Oops? No forgiveness, you just coughed up points.
- Work through test mistakes and have your student mark in which category each mistake falls. Disregard the section involved, just consider the aggregate. You may find that every mistake comes from the same category, but in most cases, mistakes are spread out with one dominating category.
- Spend time chatting through the categorization sheet after you’ve done corrections.
What’s the value?
Students have to admit why they made mistakes, and by self-identifying, they’re more likely to take ownership over their mistakes. This is usually a very revealing exercise that forces students to recognize/admit their deficiencies and take them head-on.