Confession time: I did my second half of student teaching in kindergarten and found myself physically exhausted every single day.   My first assignment had been in 7th grade with students who could work independently and actively participate in critical (and often humorous!) discussions.  In the kindergarten classroom, I found myself working with little ones who desperately needed me every moment of the day to tie their shoes, help them cut out shapes, and listen to them tattle about everything they just witnessed during recess.  I quickly learned that my ideal classroom was not in the primary grades.  And so, it is with great respect and admiration for primary elementary teachers that I write this post!

If you feel like tattling has disrupted one too many lessons this year, you are not alone!  Consider trying these tips for taming the tattling:

Classroom Discussion

A post by Responsive Classroom, suggests writing down on index cards a few of the typical common incidents that have been reported to you.  Then, as a class, discuss if the proper response to each situation should be “Tell An Adult,” “Handle It Yourself,” or “Let it Go.”  You can make a chart and keep it posted in your classroom to remind students of the proper response.  You can also add to it or change the response throughout the year. Discuss the chart with parents and talk about your approach at parent meetings, in your weekly newsletter, and on your school or class website.

Be careful with student responsibilities

A well-organized classroom often includes student jobs and putting students in charge of certain responsibilities.  However, if you want to limit tattling, Dr. Ken Shore warns not to put students in charge of their classmates.  When a student is in authority over another student, it often will lead to a student telling you that someone is not following directions or being difficult.  To avoid this conflict, do not put students in charge of their classmates.

Deal with each student individually

Some students are looking for validation or attention.  Others might be being bullied.  Still others might not understand socially acceptable behaviors.  Help your students grow.   One teacher found it was necessary to have a student repeat the following: “It is not your job to enforce the playground rules. All you have to do is follow the rules. The playground supervisors can handle the rest of the kids in the way they see fit.”

Stop using the term “tattling”

Specifically, when we discourage “tattling” with our students, we might unintentionally send the wrong message.  After all, we do want students to report harmful behavior!  Students need to know that we are listening and take their concerns seriously.  Valerie Reiss encourages teachers to keep the lines of communication open and to remember that students will tattle less as they grow older and develop social skills.

Use it as a teachable moment

Help the student control their tattletale behavior by asking them questions such as:

Are you ok?

Did you ask the person to stop?

What are you hoping will happen?

What can I do to help the situation?

You can also have the students role-play with a caveat: Have them reenact the scenario with what every member involved should have done.  Have them practice the right thing to do in the situation.

Learn more

If tattling is taking over your classroom, consider enrolling in a professional development course that addresses classroom management

Do you have any tips for taming the tattling?  Leave some advice for another teacher or parent in the comments below!

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