Tattling in the Classroom

There is no classroom issue that gets to me more than tattling. I know that I can't be alone on this one. It seems that every year it really picks up in the second semester too, so here are some sure fire ways to help you and your students come out the other side alive by STOPPING THE BLAME GAME. 


Tattling is one of those high tension issues that students suddenly get very stressed about. No one wants to be labeled a tattler, so I think that it helps students to understand why they or their peers may do it anyway. In my eyes, there are three main reasons that students tattle:
  1. Seeking Attention- In my experience, this is almost always the case. Students think that it helps to put them in your good graces if they think they are telling you something you would want to know. All students want attention, and this is just one way to get it. For ideas on how to give attention seekers positive attention check out this post
  2. To Gain Power- Student often feel powerless, and being able to tell on someone gives them just enough power to feel in control. This can be especially meaningful for students that have something going on in their lives. Another way for students to gain power through tattling is to threaten to tattle. This gives them power with their peers which can sometimes mean the world. 
  3. Question the Rules-Students new to an environment can sometimes turn to tattling when they are unclear of the rules. Teaching students to ask questions instead of tattling can be a powerful way to overcome this. Being very explicit about what the rules are in the first place can prevent this from happening. 

Read Aloud

I always start the lesson with A Bad Case of Tattle Tongue by Julia Cook. I love Julia Cook. She is a former elementary school counselor turned author who writes amazing books about social issues. This one is a great way to introduce the idea that tattling is not a positive thing. By starting with the book, my students are able to start wrapping their mind around the subject.

Anchor Chart

After reading we work together to create an anchor chart detailing the differences between telling or reporting and tattling. I try to keep our chart as basic as possible so that students really have to determine what it means to them. Of course, the chart looks different with each class depending on what they share, but I always try to include the information shown above. 
Once we have finished our chart I give each student two sticky notes and ask them to write down one time that they think they tattled and one time they reported. We fold them all up and place them in a basket. 
We draw a few sticky notes, read what is on them and talk about whether they are reporting or tattling, of course without revealing who wrote them down. This part of the lesson really helps us to flush out if we understand or not. 

How to Talk to an Adult About a Problem

The next thing we talk about is how to talk to an adult about a problem, because even reporting can sound like tattling when students are nervous about talking to an adult. I have always wanted my students to feel confident about talking to adults, and by giving them a plan it gives them that boost. 
I give my students four steps to follow"
1. Ask to talk privately.
2. Ask for help being a problem solver.
3. Tell the problem.
4. Ask how you can help.

These four steps are easily actionable, and help me as the teacher to know when a student is trying to report a problem. 

What Now?

Of course these activities will reach 90% of your students, but there is always that 10% that will feel the need to tell you everything, and really do believe that they are telling not tattling. So, here are a couple of ideas to help them:
  • Stuffed Animal- Some students just need to talk. By having a designated stuffed animal or toy that they can talk to this helps the situation. My only fear with this one is that something could slip by that you might really want to know about. 
  • A Reporting Journal- A notebook or journal that students can write down what they want to tell you. This one is my favorite because students are able to get out everything that they feel the need to say, and I can read through it to see if there is anything that I need to know. 
  • A Class Agenda Box- A box within the room that students can write down a problem and put in the box. Then you can read through the box and select one to be discussed during your class meeting. This one has the benefit of having students talk about the problem together.  

1 comment:

  1. It's so important to teach the difference and to not punish tattling. I would add that many young children have a hard time distinguishing between tattling and telling with issues like emotional bullying. Children need to be able to seek adult assistance when they are unsure of how to handle a situation. When we punish tattling instead of teaching the difference children may not tell us about real issues. Thanks for discussing this.
    Grade School Giggles


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