Tackling Tattling

Tattling is a constant issue at the elementary level.  With our school’s focus on anti-bullying, it’s sometimes difficult to know how much attention to give to students’ complaints about their peers.  It helps to make sure that the children understand the difference between tattling and telling, and to set clear expectations about how each will be handled.jpg_whisper201

Children tattle for many different reasons.  Some want to test limits and figure out whether or not the teacher will enforce rules.  Sometimes students point out misbehavior so that the teacher will recognize the their own efforts to follow the rules.  Other students may not know how to handle a situation, so they turn to an adult for guidance.  Of course, there are also times when the concern is legitimate and there’s good reason for reporting an inappropriate behavior.

The best way to eliminate tattling is through classroom discussion.  Students can work together to create a list of specific situations they encounter at school such as name calling, non-participation in group activities, incorrect completion of an assigned activity, taking another child’s belonging, using inappropriate language, cutting in front of someone in line, and so forth.  Once the list is made, students can decide which should be reported, which should be handled on their own, and which they should simple ignore.

Reporting Vs TattlingA good way to reinforce the whole-class lesson, is by displaying this FREE poster by edgalaxy.com.  Students who continue to tattle can be directed to this poster to review the difference between reporting and tattling.

This FREE 2:10 minute You Tube video, Tattling vs.Telling is a clear, straight-forward way to initiate another lesson followed by whole-class discussion.  It explains the difference between reporting a serious concern and trying to get a classmate in trouble.

For teachers who want to implement a more formal plan, this FREE 8:47 minute You Tube video, Tattle Ender by Charity Preston outlines a paper-and-pencil classroom management program.   Using this approach, students who bring any issue to the teacher that is not of immediate concern are directed to record the issue using a special procedure.  At week’s end these notes are reviewed by the teacher who determines which, if any, require additional attention.

With these resources and little patience, there should be less tattling and more time for teaching!

Teaching with Cootie Catchers

Everyone loves cootie catchers!  Check out these free downloads for some easy ways to use them in the classroom.

cootie catcher super teacherSuper Teacher Worksheets offers this FREE Cootie Catcher for practicing 2X multiplication facts.  Download includes folding directions and activity suggestions.

cootiesCheck out the Learning Bug for 16 FREE, Sample Cootie Catchers that cover math, science, and language arts for grades 2-5.

irregular verbsHere’s one example from the Learning Bug website noted above, a 2nd Grade lesson on Irregular Plurals.  Sample includes folding and activity directions.

Screen-Shot-2012-05-08-at-10.42.29-AM-232x300This pirate-themed cootie catcher provides students with Mixed Integer Operations.  Check out the free download at For the Love of Teaching.

marzano wordUse this Marzano Vocabulary Cootie Catcher template to review vocabulary words. Students will say and spell words, as well as provide synonyms, part of speech, definitions, and sentences using the word.

foldingIf you or your students need a quick Cootie Catcher refresher course check out the folding directions at Babysitter Blab.  You can find even more resources here: Cootie Catcher Folding Instructions and Cootie Catchers Video.

blank templateCoolest of all is this FREE PowerPoint Cootie Catcher Template from Downloadable Cootie Catchers.  Download this easy-to-edit template using PowerPoint. Click on each section to drop in a graphic or edit the text. Then just print and go. Great for reviewing math, vocabulary, or grammar!cootie catcher template low tech

For a simpler, low-tech approach download this FREE Cootie Catcher Template from Tonya’s Treats for Teachers or a similar one from BillyBear4Kids.com.

Thinking about making your own cootie catchers?  First, do a quick search using the keywords “free cootie catcher” and any appropriate skill words such as “math facts” or “irregular verbs.”

Whether you download a cootie catcher or make your own, you’re students will love this fun, hands-on activity!

Banish Bullying

We implement a well-known bullying prevention program at our school.  There’s also a plan in place for dealing with all kinds of inappropriate behavior.  Citizenship awards are given out each month.  And, there are even special lunch programs to encourage children to be inclusive.

Even so, this year reports of bullying are on the rise.  More and more students are being verbally “teased” or physically picked on.  Others complain about “drama,” a word children often use when they feel shut out or excluded by someone they once considered a friend.

Whatever name students give these behaviors, it all boils down to the same thing– someone is repeatedly being made to feel inferior or unsafe due to the actions of someone else.

Bully PicAfter searching for ideas that might help bring home the importance of being kind to one another, I stumbled on two blog posts.  The first article, “My Class’s Antibullying Campaign,” was at the blog Nerdy, Nerdy, Nerdy!  The author of that blog cited yet another post by Eric Johnson, “Erasing Meanness.”  Check it out at ‘Your Kids’ Teacher.

I carefully read both articles and then decided to give Mr. Johnson’s program a try.  The plan requires about 20 minutes a day, four days in a row.  It’s free, requires no special skills, and can be implemented in most any classroom that has online access to show videos.  Interested?  Start with the two blog posts listed above.

Here’s how the plan was used in our classroom.

Day 1 

DSCF4733Remove everything from the board, clean it really well, and then use big letters to write “mean” in the middle of the board.

Show the video “Anti-Bullying PSA: The Price of Silence.”

Ask students:

1)  What was the video about?
2)  What was  ___ (character) thinking?
3)  Why did  ___ (character) act the way s/he did in the video?


My students identified several roles in the video:  bully, victim, passive onlooker, and active onlooker.  They recognized that fear, powerlessness, ignorance, and a need for acceptance, as well as many other emotions, might have been in play.

Day 2

DSCF4736Before school starts, fill the board with synonyms for mean, hate, and bullying.  As Mr. Johnson suggests, I used only “black and blue” markers.  Some words were repeated.  I also enlisted the help of several K-3 teachers to speed things along.  The alphabetized list of words below will help you get started.

Picture listShow the video “Stand Up, Stand Out: No Checking, No Capping, No Bullying.”

Some speakers in this video have a slight Southern accent and/or use slang that may be unfamiliar to students.  This is a good opportunity to remind students about cultural differences and emphasize the lessons to be learned when listeners keep an open mind about the speaker(s).

Ask students:

1)  How do you feel about teasing others and being teased?
2)  Is “teasing” joking and kidding around, or is it bullying?
3)  Why do people “check” or tease others?


Day 3


Before school write “How do you want to be remembered?” on the board.  First, I “drew” the words using the edge of an eraser.  Then, I wrote in the letters using a thick, red line.  Empty areas were filled in with extra words.

Show and discuss the videos: “Being a Friend” and “Stop Bullying PSA.”

I love the third suggested video, “Don’t Laugh at Me” by Mark Wills.  Due to community standards where I teach, I reluctantly decided against using it at my grade level.

Ask students:

1)  Besides standing up to a bully, what else can you do– if you’re being bullied or if you want to help a victim?
2)  How can you make others feel wanted and important?
3)  Do you think it makes a difference when someone walks up to a victim after they’ve been bullied?  Why?


Encourage students to think about how they would want to be remembered by their peers if they suddenly had to move to another school.

Day 4

The teacher doesn’t need to make any changes to the board, today.

Show the video “Perfect” by Ahmir.

This video captured my students attention more than any of the others shown earlier in the week.  That said, it’s important to preview all materials used in the classroom to ensure that they are appropriate for your grade level and community.  This video mentions “drinking a nice cold beer.”  It’s the only such reference, and the performers are of drinking age.

Ask students:

1)  What happened in the video?
2)  Do you think this could really happen?
3)  Why do you think this particular song was used in the video?


Tell the students that the idea for these lessons originally came from an online article with the title, “Erasing Meanness.”   Ask them, “What do you think the author meant when he selected that title?”

Announce that today they can literally erase meanness by replacing unkind words with happier words of their own.  Allow students to use brightly colored markers to replace the words they choose to erase.

Meanness eraseWhen students comment that there are still lots of “black and blue” words, ask them, “What would happen if another group of students were also able to erase words?”  This should help them understand that  they can’t “erase” all meanness and bullying by themselves, but their efforts can make a BIG difference.

Show one final video, “Antibullying- You are Perfect.”  This video was made by students and can also be found on the blog, Nerdy, Nerdy, Nerdy! mentioned at the beginning of this post.

The situations in this final video resonated with my students and left them feeling empowered.  It was a great way to wrap up this week-long experience!

Final Thoughts

My grade-level teaching partner and I both taught these lessons on the same days.  At week’s end, two children who argue so much that they can’t even be in the same homeroom,  began playing together at recess.  Several “hands-on” students started doing a better job maintaining their own personal space.  The entire class behaved in a more thoughtful manner and there was an increase in daily acts of kindness.

Did it last?  For awhile.  I believe that some parts of some lessons stuck with some children– permanently.  There’s no test for mastery of this “skill.”  Teaching children how to erase meanness is an ongoing process that requires consistent modeling and reinforcement.

If you try this plan, when you’re done I hope you’ll do what I did… pass it on!

Additional anti-bullying resource links:



Click here for a FREE download of the lesson and resources described above.


FREE Earth Day (April 22) Resources

According to the Earth Day Network, “Every year on April 22, more than one billion people take part in Earth Day.  Across the globe, individuals, communities, organizations, and governments acknowledge the amazing planet we call home and take action to protect it.”  This group even has a Green Schools Campaign designed to save money, conserve energy and water, and make us all healthier.

Below are some great projects and resources.  Whether it’s a coloring page, an art lesson, or a full-blown community project, any effort to create an awareness about our planet’s limited resources helps the cause.

Daria Sings for Earth Day                        Click here for this FREE Earth Day song, lyrics, and video download of “We’ve Got the Whole World in Our Hands.”

Scholasitc Earth Day Pattern news_0404_patternClick here for this FREE Earth Day Pattern.  Students think of ways to “give back” to the environment with this Earth Day display.  Have each child write and illustrate one way she can help care for the earth.  Mount each completed paper on a slightly larger piece of recycled gift wrap and add a bow to the top.  Display the projects around an enlarged globe pattern with the title shown.

Information and Coloring Sheet about endangered species for Earth DayClick here to check out FREE Endangered Species Worksheets and Coloring Pages like this one about the Przewalskis Horse.  Bring home environmental concerns in an interesting way that easily connects to reading and science curriculum.

Earth Day Mothers Day Magazine Rolled Necklace Bead PicClick here to check out this FREE Earth Day or Mother’s Day project using old magazine pages, scissors, glue, a toothpick, waxed paper, and some elastic beading thread.  Turn trash into treasure.  Kids feel empowered and moms love these colorful necklaces!

Go Green in the Classroom Teaching UnitClick here to check out this FREE Water Conservation Unit. Scholastic’s “Go Green” winner is chock full of ideas and is integrated across all curriculum areas.