Tattling in the classroom can be a HUGE distraction from learning. It’s important to address all the ins and outs of this problem and know exactly how to reduce tattling in the classroom before it gets too out of control.
Tattling is often an age-appropriate social-emotional response for early elementary-aged students. It’s somewhere in between getting physical with peers and learning how to problem-solve with each other.
Although this fact might provide a smidge of reassurance that your students are right on track, it doesn’t negate the fact that tattling is probably taking up wayyyy too much of your instructional time and must be addressed!
5 Ways to Reduce Tattling in the Classroom
- Teach tattling vs telling
- Teach problem-solving skills
- Teach “I Statements”
- Use books & videos
- Use resources
Tattling vs Telling
Help students understand what is important to tell the teacher and what is better keeping to oneself by teaching the difference between tattling and telling.
Tattling is reporting an issue that is safe or a child can handle on his own. When a student tattles, it often leads to getting others into trouble. “Small problems” often go with tattling.
Example: Sam touched Alek’s pencil pouch.
Telling is reporting an issue to an adult when someone is in danger or a child needs help with a situation. A student can “tell” to keep someone out of trouble or danger. “Big problems” are associated with telling.
Example: Jamika kicked Zion, and Zion is crying.
Kids may tattle because they don’t have the ability to problem-solve yet. Reduce tattling in the classroom by modeling this skill and teaching it clearly to students.
Show students your own problem-solving skills in action as you encounter challenges in your day and with other adults.
Allow kids to have space to consider what the real problem is when they want to report information to an adult.
Reminder: If someone is not safe, always tell a teacher or safe grown-up!
After students have analyzed the reason behind tattling incidents, they need tools to work through proper conflict resolution. This Keys to Resolving Conflict activity is perfect to make teaching this social-emotional skill a breeze!
It’s common for anyone (especially young kids!) to respond defensively when blamed. Teach students how to change the way they communicate their feelings by using “I Statements” to communicate their feelings with their classmates instead of tattling.
Example: I felt sad when you said my picture was ugly because I worked really hard on it.
(instead of “Sally said my picture is ugly!”)
Good “I Statements” help students take responsibility for their own feelings and effectively talk about their problems.
Books & Videos
Books and videos are great ways to make learning about tattling relatable and memorable for young students!
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Josh is often called “Josh the Tattler” because he tattles too much. It often makes other classmates not want to be around him. His mom tells him he better stop tattling or he will get tattle tongue. Josh does not want to get tattle tongue, so the next day at school when he overhears someone planning to bully a classmate later, he does not tell anyone. That night, he wakes up to see his tongue is long, yellow, and covered in purple spots.
On top of that, it's itchy and scratchy. He has a bad case of Tattle Tongue! He’s confused because he did not tattle, but the Tattle Prince visits him and explains that that would not have been tattling, it would have been giving a warning because someone was in danger. The tattle prince explains the 4 rules of tattling: be a danger ranger, be a problem solver, now or later?, and mind your own beeswax. With practice, Josh learns the difference between tattling and telling. He also loses the tattle tongue.
The book teaches children the importance of distinguishing between minor issues and significant problems and encourages them to speak up when necessary. Mrs. McNeal’s class is struggling with tattling. They tattle on each other constantly making the classroom unbearable. Mrs. McNeal decides it's time for a lesson on tattling, she encourages them to problem-solve on their own and to report any problems that are emergencies.
The story follows Miles McHale, a young boy who loves to tattle on his classmates. However, his constant tattling starts to make him unpopular, and he realizes that not all situations require tattling. With the help of his teacher, Miles learns to distinguish between tattling and reporting, and he becomes a more trusted and respected member of his class.
The book does an excellent job of teaching children the difference between tattling and reporting, and the importance of considering whether a situation requires adult intervention or not. The writing is straightforward and easy for young readers to understand, and the illustrations by Elisa Ferrari are colorful and engaging.
This song all about tattling is a great way to reinforce when to tell and when to wait. The catchy tune and lyrics will easily keep little ones in primary classrooms interested!
Use this companion lesson to Julia Cook’s Tattle Tongue to help students make hands-on connections to the story and use social skills as they learn and consider the differences between tattling and telling.
Ten activities and an editable Google Slides option come with this detailed lesson plan.
But Some Kids Won’t Stop…
You’re an amazing teacher, but even you can’t do it all— outsource when needed!
Unfortunately, at least 1 or 2 kids will not respond to these strategies. For these kids, don’t forget the power of referring them to your school counselor for individual or small-group support. Your counselor will be able to help determine the root cause of these students’ perpetual tattling and create steps to reduce this challenging behavior.
Don’t be overwhelmed by tattling in your classroom anymore! Be confident in your abilities to reduce this conflict among students using these 5 simple strategies.