For most teachers at the elementary level, tattling is a constant issue.
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.
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 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 simply ignore.
Children tattle to test limits, demonstrate their own efforts to follow the rules, and to get adult guidance.
If problems persist, the teacher can create a simple paper-and-pencil classroom management program. Using this approach, students who bring an issue to the teacher that’s not of immediate concern are directed to write down the details of the problem using an established procedure. This can be a special, teacher-created form or a simple accounting written on a piece of notebook paper.
This approach helps students feel heard. It also provides an appropriate outlet to express their feelings. Issues that require additional attention can then be addressed 1:1 with the student, as time permits, or during a special time set aside for classroom discussion.
A 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 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. (approx. 2 minutes)
Another video, Tattle Questions, has a catchy song by Harry Kindergarten Music. This video uses music to reinforce your classroom policies about tattling. (approx. 2 minutes)
With these resources and little patience, there should be less tattling and more time for teaching!
Feeling a little frazzled? Need a quick pick-me-up?
Check out these print-and-display mini-posters
with words of encouragement to get you through the day!