Tattling is a problem faced by parents and teachers alike, with children kindergarten age and beyond. You can tame tattling—and communicate the importance of telling—by teaching children the difference between tattling and telling.
When I teach lessons to students about tattling and telling, I break it down for them by explaining:
- Tattling is saying something to get someone else in trouble. Tattling is about a kid-sized problem.
- Telling is helping keep someone safe. Telling is about an adult-sized problem.
Here’s an activity I do to help students tell the difference. To start, come up with several “Tattling” and “Telling” scenarios relevant to your students. I love adding movement to my lessons and getting students out of their seats, so I make two signs—one that says “Tattle” and the other says “Tell”—and hang them on opposite sides of the room. Then I read the scenarios to the class and ask the students to determine if the child in the situation would be tattling if he or she reported the incident or if it is a situation where the student should tell. Students move to the “Tattle” side of the room if they think the scenario was tattling and move to the “Tell” side of the room if they think the scenario is appropriate to tell an adult. Seeing the students move in response allows me to see if they understand the difference and who needs more support to get the concept.
After each scenario, we discuss why the problem was “Tattle” or “Tell” and come up with solutions to solve the “kid-sized problems.”
Here are some sample scenarios:
- A classmate fell on the playground and is bleeding. Answer: Tell. This is an adult-sized problem. Someone is hurt and he or she needs help.
- Someone took my pencil. Answer: Tattle. This is a kid-sized problem. Discuss ways you could solve this problem on your own.
- Someone is calling you names. Answer: Tattle or tell. This usually starts as a kid-sized problem, so first tell the student to stop and you do not like it. If the problem continues, tell your teacher or another adult you trust! (Teachers: Make sure to emphasize that bullying is a situation where it is important to tell an adult. Bullying is an adult-sized problem and children need help from adults to solve it.)
- Someone stuck out her or his tongue. Answer: Tattle. This is a kid-sized problem. Discuss ways you could solve this problem on your own.
How do you tame tattling in your classroom or school?
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Don’t Squeal Unless It’s a Big Deal by Jeanie Franz Ransom
A Bad Case of Tattle Tongue by Julia Cook
Downloadable Tattle/Tell signs for game: https://docs.google.com/open?id=0B1wAW8SV6GFOYldPTFAzR0hVd3M