19 Ways to Stop Tattling in Your Classroom

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“Teacher… (insert name here) is talking.” “(So and So) wouldn’t play with me at recess.” “(Insert name) took my pencil.” TATTLING is like nails on a chalkboard. Your students’ voices even change when they are tattling. As they walk towards you, you know it’s coming and all you want to do is put on earmuffs. How do you get rid of tattling in your classroom? It became such a big problem that our Fearless Facebook Teacher Groups started having conversations about it. And they came up with some ingenious ways to stop tattling in your classroom!

Ways to Stop Tattling 1 – Read A Bad Case of  Tattle Tongue by Julia Cook

No one likes “Josh the Tattler” because he tattles way too much. He tattles on his classmates, his brother, and even his dog! But one night Josh wakes up to find that his tongue is very long, yellow, covered in bright purple spots, and Itchy, Itchy, Scratchy, Scratchy…

Will a bad case of Tattle Tongue teach him a lesson?

Many teachers then follow up the book by creating a chart that has the 5 Rules discussed in the story and refer to them whenever tattling starts.

2 – Look for the Positives, not Negatives

“Tootles are the opposite of tattles. Have them write down a classmate’s name on a sticky each time they notice them doing something good. At the end of the day I make a huge deal out of how many times someone’s name was written down.” – Lauren S.

Tootling is a classroom-based intervention used to increase peer prosocial behaviors, particularly offering and receiving help, while decreasing negative and disruptive peer interactions. Tootling is like tattling but refers to the reporting of only positive, rather than inappropriate, social behaviors.

This is a great way to have your students pay attention to desired behaviors and not always focus on the negative ones their classmates may be doing. Use this strategy with bucket fillers. What a positive classroom management system?!

3 – Difference in Vocabulary

Many teachers ask their students if they are “telling” or “tattling”. Explain the difference between the two words. TELLING is when someone may need help or is in trouble and needs an adult for assistance. TATTLING is when you are trying to get someone into trouble. Other words that teachers use besides “telling” are “reporting”, “being helpful, not hurtful”, and “I statements”.

Ways to Stop Tattling 4 – Don’t Squeal Unless It’s a Big Deal by Jeanie Franz Ransom Read Aloud

This book teaches kids when squealing on a fellow classmate is appropriate and when it is merely tattling! Set in a school classroom, the kids in the class constantly tattle on each other, creating an air of frustration and distrust. The teacher, rather than policing the situation, addresses underlying feelings and encourages mutual problem-solving.

You can follow up the read-aloud by creating an anchor chart helping students identify when it is appropriate to tell the teacher and when they need to independently problem solve.

5 – Create a “Tattle Box”

“Make a tattle box. Use or decorate an old tissue box. Get a lined notepad and small pencils, or your students can use their own. Tell them when they have a tattle they need to write it down and put it in the tattle box.” ~ Denise F.

6 – Problem Solve Before Tattling

Take the time to have community circle discussions where your students practice how to talk with their classmates and problem solve instead of tattling to the teacher. It’s important that you give the person you are upset with an opportunity to fix the issue. Using an explicit social-emotional curriculum will help your students become better problem solvers, as well as learn how to appropriately communicate with other students. Role-playing possible classroom problems is a great way for your students to practice these skills.

Ways to Stop Tattling 7 – The Dreaded “Tattle List”

“I make a tattle list. Anyone that tattles goes on it. At the end of the day, I give a reward to everyone that is NOT on the list. Took a few days to really take effect but it worked. I decided to make the rewards kind of big so it would be effective fast. It worked so well I only had to do it for a week. If I have a flare-up all it takes is one day to bring it back.” ~ Kelli S.

8 – You Need a Tattle Tale License

“Make a tattle tale license. Have them write their name, the person they “need” to tattle on, and what that person did, AND a place for their parents’ signature. They can’t tattle until it is filled out. But make sure to write on the bottom of the paper “expires after 1 tattle“.” ~ Christy C.

9 – Five Fingers Only

To stop students from interrupting while you are teaching in a small group, give your students the five reasons they can come talk to you.

  1. Bleeding
  2. Vomiting
  3. Earthquake
  4. Fire
  5. Flood

As you explain to your students each of these reasons, point them out on each finger of one of your hands. When a student starts to approach your teaching table, simply hold up your five fingers and slowly fold each one down. It is a great visual reminder and usually, they turn around and go back to their seat.

Ways to Stop Tattling 10 – Read Tattlin’ Madeline by Carol Cummings, Ph.D.

A book designed to teach young children the difference between tattling and reporting. Written in rhyme to read aloud or for guided reading, providing repeated word patterns and predictable text.

After reading the book, hold a class discussion sorting statements that are tattling and those that are reporting. Leave the anchor chart up on the wall, so your students can refer to it before they approach you. The decision becomes theirs on whether what they are about to say is tattling or reporting.

11 – Call the Hotline Using the Tattle Phone

This idea is such fun! Especially if you have an old corded telephone you can bring in as the prop. Have a special area in the classroom where your “Tattle Phone” is set up. If you have a student who starts to tattle to you, tell them to go over to the phone and call the tattle hotline. You can even post a fake phone number that they have to punch in or dial on the phone. Students dial the number and then recite their tattle into the phone. This way, they get their tattle out and feel heard, while you get to continue teaching uninterrupted.

12 – Read Armadillo Tattletale by Helen Ketteman

What happens when your ears are too big for your head? Helen Ketteman’s endearing tale of how the Armadillo came to have small ears reminds youngsters and oldsters alike to listen with care. After reading this book with your students, have a discussion on what active listening looks like and how to talk problems out with their classmates. This would be another good role-playing activity for your students during community circle.

Ways to Stop Tattling 13 – Talk to the Tattle Animal

Purchase or bring from home a stuffed animal and place it somewhere in the classroom. This will become your “Tattle Animal Friend”. Similar to the tattle phone, when a student is going to tattle to you, simply remind them to go over to the stuffed animal and tell them. Again, students are able to be “heard” while you get to continue your day without a bunch of interruptions.

14 – Use Kelso’s Choices

When I first started teaching, we used Kelso’s Choice Wheel, which taught students many different ways to solve problems. We would discuss these different problem-solving techniques during community circle, as well as practice what they look and sound like in different school situations. Once all of the different strategies on Kelso’s Wheel have been discussed and practiced, whenever they have a problem they consult the wheel and choose a strategy to solve it. The poster that corresponds to it also reminds students that if the problem is BIG, they should tell a trusted adult.

Different teachers use the choice wheel in different ways. I always asked my students to “try 3 before me”. So they needed to choose three different appropriate strategies to solve their problem before tattling to me. This rule pertained to small problems. If the issue they had was big (barfing, bleeding, bullying, etc.), then it was okay to interrupt me for assistance.

 

15 – Big Problem or Little Problem

Correlating with Kelso’s Wheel, explicitly teach your students the differences between big problems and little or small problems. I recommend creating an anchor chart with your class and adding to it throughout the school year as school problems arise. If it is a small problem, then they need to use one or more of Kelso’s choices to solve it, but if it is a BIG problem they need to find and tell a trusted adult.

Ways to Stop Tattling 16 – Bugs and Wishes

This tattling strategy helps your students practice using words to solve their problems independently. It also teaches students to be active listeners when someone is talking with them. The student who has the problem starts with the sentence phrase “It bugs me when you _____. I wish that you would _____ instead.” Both students can discuss ideas to put into the “wish” blank to find a solution that works best for everyone and is appropriate for the school setting.

17 – Read Diamond Rattle Loves to Tattle by Ashley Bartley

This adorable tale is the story of an elementary-aged rattlesnake amongst a classroom full of other elementary-aged animals. The problem? Diamond LOVES to tattle. And when she tattles, her rattles glow and grow!

Her tattling tendencies are affecting her friendships. With peers avoiding her, she finds herself eating lunch alone. Fortunately for Diamond, her caring teacher Miss Crow is there to teach her more about problem-solving, staying out of others’ business, and the difference between a report and a tattle.

Will Diamond be able to control her snitching snake tendencies? Find out in this charming tale.

18 – Use the 3 Questions

“Use the book, Miles McHale, Tattletale by Christianne C. Joneswhich asks the questions: Is someone SICK, HURT, or IN DANGER? Unless the answer is yes to one of those, it’s not something you take to a grown-up. We read the book the first week of school and practice scenarios and practice answering those 3 questions so they know what Sick, Hurt, or in Danger looks like. I have not had to deal with one instance of tattling all year. They know if they come to me I will ask those 3 questions (and RARELY is the answer yes LOL)” ~ Deneen C.

Ways to Stop Tattling 19 – Stop It Before They Can Speak

Now, this strategy is not the best way to try to end tattling in your classroom and may hurt your students’ feelings, but we have some teachers that use it. ?‍♀️ When a student approaches you with that tattling look in their eye, immediately shut it down. Some teachers put up a hand to signal “STOP”, others say “No thank you, please turn around.”, and the rest just shake their heads NO before the student can open their mouth.

I am not a huge fan of this way, as your students are not heard. They may be approaching you with a big problem that you are unaware of. Students may get the sense that their feelings and what they have to say are not important in your classroom. I highly recommend using another way on this list and #19 can be a LAST RESORT! (Or used on the day when the tattling is literally out of control.)

Tattling can definitely spiral out of control if you don’t have strategies in place to provide your students with other options. It can take your day from a 10 to a 1 really quickly. Use one or more of these ways to stop tattling in your classroom and enjoy uninterrupted teaching bliss. (at least uninterrupted from tattling – the other things we will have to tackle in future blogs ?) If you have your own “go-to” ways to stop tattling in your classroom, please share them in the comments below. We can never have enough tools in this particular box.

Written by – Janessa Fletcher

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