Owning Up to Ones’ Mistakes

TECHNIQUE 10:  Own and Track

mistakes2Again, Teach Like a Champion 2.0¹ presents a seemingly subtle technique, that can prove to be very effective, yet at the same time critically important to employ correctly.  If students are encouraged to make, share and discuss mistakes, in the process of ‘Build a Culture of Error‘, it is of extreme importance that the CORRECT response is well excavated and discussed as well.  Within the process of parlaying potential correct and incorrect responses in the classroom, the primary answer, potentially becomes lost, obscured or misinterpreted.  Lemov openly divulges this very important piece of pedagogical evidence; “…discussing wrong answers can result in students, especially the weakest students, failing to differentiate correct answers from incorrect ideas and merely remembering even better the errors you describe.”, (p.77)¹.  ‘Own and Track’ seeks to remediate this potential instructional pitfall, and further reinforce the concepts and techniques presented in Chapter 2.

The simple, yet incredibly important concept behind ‘Own and Track’ is that students be required to cross out, (not erase) any errors on their worksheet or notes.  Additionally, students are expected to label the errors in their original work and label correct responses or steps using a different symbol or notation.   Here are some suggested phrases built around the implementation of this technique in the classroom:

  • Give yourself a √ for every correct response on your paper.
  • Circle answer B and write a margin note that explains the error.
  • Draw a line through answer B and rewrite the correct response beside it.
  • Make your paper look like mine, (strike through, crossed out answer on an overhead).
  • I’m coming around to check that you’ve crossed out all incorrect attempts on your paper.

I like that this technique doesn’t require students erase erroneous responses.  The errors are there, they were a part of the problem solving.  A teacher might devise all sorts of symbols, coding, highlighters etc to make this technique more tactile and intentional.    Here are some simple paper and pencil examples of what Own and Track should look like:



Of integral importance, the educator’s role, too, is to track and own what is on the board or overhead projector; what ever is functioning in the classroom as the primary focal point or visual should be at regular intervals kept clean of “example” errors.  “…just because answers get on the board during excavation doesn’t mean they stay up there.  The longer an answer is up there, the more likely that someone will remember it, even though it’s incorrect.”, (p.78)¹   As the teacher, too should, ‘Own and Track‘, now is a critical time for the teacher or para educators to practice Tracking, Not Watching; to circulate around the room in order to verify that students themselves are executing the call to Own and Track.



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