Mistakes Can Lead to Lessons

UDL 5.3

Mistakes Can Lead to Lessons is a reading comprehension strategy where students analyze the mistakes a character makes in order to determine the central message of the text or an overarching lesson that can be learned. Students begin by reading a text and identifying instances where a character makes a mistake or feels badly about a decision they have made. After reading, students determine what the character learned from their decisions and write a statement describing a lesson from the text that can applied in real-world contexts. Mistakes Can Lead to Lessons allows students to practice making inferences and drawing conclusions. Additionally, this strategy promotes engaged reading as students connect a character’s actions to personal experiences and generalize the theme of a text to their own lives.

Implementation Tips

Sentence Frames
Provide sentence frames to help struggling students describe a character’s mistakes and the lessons that can be learned. Sample frames:
- One mistake ___ made was ___. - I learned ___ because ___. - You don’t have to ___ to ___. - Try to ___ when you ___. - It is always important to ___.
Graphic Organizers
Create a graphic organizer for students to record their responses utilizing the strategy. For example, a three-column chart like [[|this]] can be used for students to write the story’s title, character’s mistake, and the lesson that was learned.
Model the strategy by reading a short story aloud to the class. As you are reading, use think-alouds and guiding questions to help students identify a character’s mistakes. After reading, use evidence from the text to identify what the character learned and model writing a statement that generalizes the lesson to real world scenarios.
Selecting Texts
Choose familiar stories or texts with a clear theme to support students when they are first learning to apply the strategy. Remind students that there can be many “right” answers regarding a story’s lesson but that they should be supported with evidence from the text. To challenge advanced students, supply texts that require students to make inferences to understand a character’s motives and the effects of their actions.
Student Collaboration and Reflection
Facilitate a discussion after students finish reading to allow students the mistakes they noticed and lessons from the text with each other. A Fishbowl discussion can be used to allow a small group of students to discuss the story’s theme as the rest of the class observes. Also, provide opportunities for students to work collaboratively to reflect on a text and determine lessons that can be learned from a character’s mistakes.


After reading a story, a class discusses the main character’s mistakes and lessons he/she learned. The teacher then asks students to brainstorm ideas about a different lesson for the main character to learn that was not addressed in the story. With partners, students write an alternative ending to the story that shows the character learning the new lesson and share their drafts with the class.
After studying about the French Revolution, students reflect on Napoleon’s leadership. The teacher guides the class in identifying choices that he made that led to negative consequences, which historians now view as mistakes (e.g., the Coup of 18 Brumaire, invasion of Russia, etc.). Students create short graphic novels or illustrated timelines featuring Napoleon learning from some of these mistakes and making different decisions.
Social and Emotional Learning
To help students improve conflict resolution skills, a teacher provides small groups different scenarios in which a person encounters a challenging situation with peers (e.g., taking turns on the playground, responding to bullies, etc.). Each group reads their scenario, determines mistakes that the characters made, and propose other solutions. The students then act out their scenarios for the class focusing on the lessons that the characters learned and showing alternative ways to resolve the conflict.

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