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Dealing with Tattling

Compiled By: fischerk

Tattling can be a source of frustration for teachers and can create a lot of negative feelings between students. However, certain dangerous situations should be reported to the teacher, and students sometimes honestly do a teacher's need help to solve major interpersonal problems. Here are some strategies for how to cut down on the bad kind of "telling" while preserving the good kind.

Posted by: brownbear

Tattling is a natural part of being a first grader. I usually listen to my first graders and then ask them "What can you say to your friend?" or
"Did you tell your friend how you felt?". This way I'm helping the children learn ways to help themselves within the classroom. If you ignore the child, then you are teaching them that their concerns are not important. Therefore, the annoying tattling continues in the classroom.

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Posted by: Sheena

This year we introduced Stan Davis' anti-bullying program. He recommends just saying "thank you" when someone tattles. I started saying it this year and I'm amazed at how well it works. A child will come up and tattle or tell about a situation and I either say "thank you" or "thank you for telling me", end of story. It really seems to work.

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Thanks for letting me know
Posted by: Candy Duff

This is going to sound so simple, but I swear, it works wonders.

When a student approaches me with tattling, I just simply and emoitionlessly reply, "OK, thank you for letting me know." I don't for sure why it works so well, but here is my personal philosophy. First, you aren't giving any attention to the tattler. (positive or negative) You are also validating their comment without excusing what they think is important (even if they are out to get another person) Finally, I am in the "know" of what's going on and if I choose, I can talk to the person who might have done something wrong, but I always wait until later, when nobody is looking. This way, they don't know who "tattled" and they think I know everything...haha! ;0)


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Posted by: mjh96

Our school uses a problem solving strategy similar to aliryan's: the "I-Statement." It goes, "I feel_______ when you _______. I need you to _______." (ex: I feel frustrated when you keep talking to me when we are supposed to be working. I need you to stop so I can concentrate on my work.")

I posted the I-Statement format all over my room, and it encourages kids to solve most of their problems on their own. I model and role-play during the 1st week of school to show the kids how and when to use it. Of course, I tell them that if it involves bullying, or if anyone is being hurt physically or emotionally, they need to tell an adult.

When they try to tattle, I ask them, "have you tried giving so-and-so an I Statement?" That usually does it.

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Something similiar
Posted by: jennyfa

I've done something similiar to the previous posters in my K/1 classes. I explain the difference between telling and tattling, and I also teach them to use I statements. We role play and practice a lot with "I feel (hurt) when you (took my pencil). When someone tattles, I always ask them first if they've used their words. If they haven't, they know that's what they need to do first before I'll intervene. We also role play responses to I-statements. I never make my children say they are sorry, but I do tell them that if someone uses their words, it's their job to make them feel better. They ask "What can I do to make you feel better?" A lot of times it's simply, "stop taking my pencil." I think it makes a huge difference in the way the children interact.
One important aspect is the Responsive Classroom's Tagger's Choice rule. If someone says that their feelings are hurt, they are. You can't argue that you didn't do anything to them.

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Posted by: bertie

It is very effective to have a class lesson on the difference between tattling and emergency. Role playing is a hit when I play the child and a child plays the teacher. I come up with all sorts of examples and I whine and complaine. The child and class decide whether its an emergency or "just tattling". We define tattling as trying to get someone else in trouble, and require the tattler to apologize to their "victim". That stops it really quickly. Be consistent.

Tattling Nightmare
Posted by: Brooke

I am having a case of horrible tattling this year too. Today I started a new thing. Each time a student tattles on someone they have to tell me two nice things about that person. Hopefully this will make tattling seem more than it is worth. The teacher I am working with tryed this last year and it worked.

Posted by: Suzanne

I too had a tattling problem. I know have a Tattle Book. It is wonderful. The students can only tattle if someone is hurt(bleeding), or is is some sort of an emergency. The students write their tattles in a notebook and I read them every day or two. If I feel it is a situation that needs to be addressed then I do. It also allows me to see who is repeating the same behavior over and over. (Great for parent teacher conferences!) It works for me maybe it will for you too!

tattle report
Posted by: johnsju

Someone asked me to send a copy of my "incident report" in a private message, but I can't figure out how to attach it so I'll just do that here. If you're interested, it's all yours :)

[Log In To See Attachments]

Posted by: Michelle Murphy

I was just in the same quandry. I use the no blood , no fire rule but with some modifications that address all of the concerns you listed. I tell my third graders that if they are not bleeding on fire or no one has said a bad word then they are to write it in the tattle book and I will read it at the end of the day.

The spiral notebook that serves as the tattle book stays on the back table next to the pencil basket at all times. My kids can get up to write in it whenever they feel the need, but they are still responsible for what we are learning while they are writing.

On Friday's we have a class meeting and anyone who still fells that they need some more closure to a wrong done to them over the week may speak. But, the complaint must be in the tattle book for it to be brought up. That keeps it from becoming a free for all. I have found that most of my kids just want to get it out and then they are fine. they don't really want to discuss it anymore. they just want to know that I know. It works really well and is very easy. the first day I used it I could barely get it to the table before there were kids waiting to write. It is also a great way to get kids who never write to write something. I have one child who will write NOTHING, but he spent 15 minutes writing a full page about something someone had done to him.

I hope that helps and please excuse my spelling I'm in a rush, but wanted to pass that on.

No title
Posted by: MunchkinLand

I knew a teacher who used to have students tattle into a tape recorder! They were to press record, state their name, explain the problem and then go sit down and get back to their work. She told the class that she would check their "messages" when she got a chance. Most of the time they would forget all about it and later when she listened to the tape recorder she had a good laugh or two!

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Posted by: KT

I have 3rd graders I can reason with fairly well. I validate that if that occurred that it was wrong. Then I explain that the child was trying to bother them and the best thing they can do is let it "go in one ear and out the other". Try not to let that person get to you so they do not get any satisfaction from it. It will be no fun for them. That does not make that person right, but it gives the other person the control. I then ask them to let me know if it continues. I may also remind the accused person of the rules and expectations if I suspect they did what they were reported to have done. This usually works if you can get them to understand that they have the upper hand if they do not let on that they are being bothered.

Older Kids
Posted by: Amy

Let me just say - I can't STAND tattling! Just the whiny sing-songy voice makes me cringe - you all know what I am talking about. 90% of the time they're just doing it to get another child in trouble. When kids tattle for something really silly like, "So-and-so looked at me funny", I sometimes get a little sarcastic ( when I'm, tired and frustrated) and tell them they better go call 911. However, I do not feel this is the best method. I agree with cg, especially for older kids. Usually I'll tell them something like, "You have my permission to ask so-and-so to stop looking at you funny". This not only puts the responsibility on the students to work it out, but it also foils any plans the student may have for getting so-and-so into trouble. At the same time, it alerts me that so-and-so might be observed a little more closely.

Tattle Tickets
Posted by: Michelle

I have also had some success with tattle tickets. You give each child (or just the target child) a set number of tattle tickets each Monday. Any time they want to tattle they have to give you a ticket. When they run out, they can not tattle again until the next Monday. Gradually reduce the number of tickets and then start "forgetting" them altogether.

girls as problem solvers
Posted by: Darla

My girls can be this way too! One thing I don't like to do is put myself in the position of mediator--they will tattle on each other until the sun goes down!! I want them to fix their problems.

Most of my girls know that if they come to me I will just say in a sad voice "That is such a bummer... what are you gonna do about it?" Usually their solutions are: talk to her about it, walk away, play with someone else, try to work it out, ignore it,... I always beam and say proudly "Oooh, that sounds great! Let me know how it works out!" and go back to what I'm doing. 9 times out of 10 this works, sometimes because the problem was so petty and they see that I'm not going to punish the person they tattled on and they forget it.

For the other times, I have a "tattle box" for when they just can't seem to solve it. They write a note to me letting me know what was going on. Usually by the time I look at the notes, the problem has passed or they've solved it. Other times I may step in and hold a class meeting or conference with a few girls and they set up a plan (consequences, really) to fix the problem (move their desks apart, no recess together for a week, eat alone until they talk without yelling at others, ...). I still see catty behavior now and then but not nearly what it was or could be. Hope this is helpful!

some ideas
Posted by: Dori

Okay - I got into this a little bit. The school I came from made conflict resolution their goal for the year. They trained fourth and fifth graders to be conflict managers (mediators) It worked out great for the little kids because all their petty recess issues could be solved on the playground by an older trained student and by the time they got back into class they were ready to learn- not tattle.

But - you could train your own class mediators. That way if someone comes to you to tattle you could say - that sounds like you need to go to mediation. Which of course will take time and I think it should happen during their recess.

I went to google and did a search looking for the words we used. We scaled them down so they were understandable to the little guys. I couldn't find it - but found this site. Looks really neat. You could do your own lessons and hopefully stop the whole thing in its tracks. Know what I mean? Be proactive.

Here it is. Hope this helps.

Ask them a question
Posted by: crteacher

I always respond with "Are you tattling or helping?" This seems to stop tattlers right away. Another response if they are just tattling is to ask them what they did about it. For instance, when someone tells me that someone said something rude to them, I always ask "and what did you tell them." We've talked about "I messages" in class and appropriate ways to respond when someone is being unkind. Of course, we start the year with talking about what helping is: i.e. someone is getting hurt or acting dangerously or property is being destroyed. Class meetings help as well.

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Posted by: CatBells

At the beginning of the year, I teach my students Problem Solving Steps: 1. Ignore the incident. 2. Ask the student nicely to change the behavior. 3. Ask the student assertively to change the behavior. 4. Move away from the situation. 5. Ask for help from an adult.

When a child approaches me with a problem, my first response is "What have you done about the situation?" At first, it's nothing. Later, they figure out I'm not going to intervene usless they have taken some action on their own. When I do take action, I have both students come to me and face each other. I mediate their conversation as the complaining student tells the other students about the behavior that s/he doesn't like.

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stop tattling
Posted by: horsenut

I think I heard this phrase from Barbara Coloroso "Into trouble or out of trouble?" We talk as a group about what it means to tell on someone to get them into trouble (tattling) or out of trouble (letting me know about an injury or that someone needs help of some kind). Once the kids are familiar with the concept, all I have to say is "into or out of?" and they usually drop it if it is tattling. It saves a lot of talking on my part.

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Kelso's Wheel
Posted by: linda2671

Last year, we had a particularly difficult group of first graders at our school. We researched ways to help them learn to get along, and we found a program called Kelso's Wheel. Kelso is a frog. He has a wheel that gives kids 9 ways to solve problems. I found a website that describes Kelso's program. It's not our website, but it explains it well.

Kelso's Choices are:
· Go to another game
· Share and take turns
· Talk it out
· Walk away
· Ignore it
· Tell them to stop
· Apologize
· Make a deal
· Wait and cool off

We've found that the kids actually like using the strategies and solving their problems on their own. We made a big deal of teaching the wheel by having all our teachers teach a different strategy, and let the kids go to a different teacher each day to learn about the strategies. We encouraged it by printing up good citizenship certificates and handed them out when we saw kids using the wheel. Then we had a celebration after all of the strategies had been taught. We had all the kids come together, and we did a review of all the strategies, had refreshments, and took pictures. It really helped the kids learn to solve their problems on their own.

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A Bad Case of Tattle Tongue
Posted by: wisteach

is a cute picture book that the kids seemed to enjoy, and it explains the 4 tattling rules. I just read it today and we discussed it. At the beginning of the year, the guidance counselor read another book called "Tattlin' Madeline" which the kids also enjoyed, and it worked for a little while. I have a very tattling class this year as well! Another teacher I know has her students write down their "tattles" and put them in a tattle box - I'm just concerned that if they don't know the difference between the silly and serious things - I may not see the serious things as soon as I need to!

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Go tell the President...
Posted by: NJM423

I attended a workshop "Tough Student Survival" and that was one of the strategies that the instructor shared with us. I have a picture of George in my room and I usually say "that sounds like something you should go tell to the president." I haven't had any complaints yet.

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