Early in my teaching career, I was covering a long-term substitute position for a third grade classroom.
These students knew me pretty well from subbing in their building and classroom almost daily, so I wasn’t a “newbie” on the street in their room.
I was filling in for 8 weeks in February and March.
Beginning almost immediately, I was getting a lot of interruptions from kids just tattling on one another for silly little things.
After several days, I could see this situation had probably been happening for quite some time and I needed to come up with a plan to change their behavior, while still showing them how I cared about what they had to say. I just didn’t need it said every 5 minutes of my teaching time!
Tattling Solutions for the Classroom
Today we’re talking about tattling. This is something that I’ve definitely seen in many, many classrooms in the different places that I’ve been.
It’s typically a primary classroom thing.
I really see it a lot at second and third grade. But, I have seen it all the way up to sixth grade as well.
You may also have day care kids at home, or preschool kids, or your own children that you are just about to pull your hair out because of the tattling.
If you hear one more time, “He stole my pencil, she’s looking at me funny, he took my paper, she messed up my desk” then this will be a great solution for you.
It’s really quick, easy, and it’s something I’ve used in the past that seems to work fairly well.
- An empty shoe box, tissue box, or gift box with a slit in the top
- A flat plastic tray
- Plastic cups of pencils
- Printable slips from below
Now all you’re going to do is put your box in a basket along with your cup of pencils
Then take the downloadable printable from below and cut it into horizontal strips. Place the papers into a stack in the basket as well.
Place your basket in the back of the classroom in an inconspicuous location that doesn’t get much traffic.
You have everything prepared! Easy, right?
How to Implement with Students
I do have a discussion with my students as I’m beginning to start this about what are some things that is considered tattling and what are some things that an adult really needs to know.
We talk about blood loss, about someone actually physically being hurt or sick, and we talk about destruction of property because I think that it is very important that if a student is kicking something or carving something into a desk, that would be something I need to know right away.
I’m sure there might be more to your list that you might want to add but make sure to have that discussion with your students as a class.
My students will hear me say, “If it doesn’t fall into one of those three categories, you will get to write it down instead of telling me out loud.”
Now as you start this new procedure, you’ll get many students who will still want to continue tattling.
When they begin shouting out or waving their hand in the air, I’ll stop them and say, “Is it one, two, three?”
If the answer is no: I direct them to go in the back of the classroom to the basket and write down their concern on the slip, fold it in half, and drop it in the box.
It’s silent, doesn’t cause a disruption in the middle of a lesson, and the child still feels he or she has been heard.
It’s something they feel that they need to tell you, and they’ve gotten so accustomed to you paying attention to that that they need to do that. You’re still listening. It’s just in a different format.
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What Happens Next?
You’re going to leave that box alone for a week.
On Fridays (or Thursday after school), I go to my box and open it up to read the messages.
Place your slips into piles: Things that need to be addressed immediately and then piles of the same topic (making faces at someone, talking when they are supposed to be listening, etc.)
At our class morning meeting on Friday, I grab the box and talk about a few items that keep coming up without directly naming any names at all.
Role playing some examples of how they can change the situation is a great way to help them actively see how to improve their situation.
Your students will respond well to that. They know you’ve heard them. They know that you are reading the slips of paper because what they have to say is important. They still need that accountability to you to make sure that they’ve told you what’s going on, and they want to make sure that you are taking some interest in what they care about.
Now I could see that you’re thinking to yourself that it could be a logistical nightmare with students getting in and out of their desks to fill out these slips all day long.
And you are 100% correct.
At the beginning, when you first start this, especially if you do not start it at the beginning of the school year, they will think of it as novelty.
It’ll be very exciting to get out of their seat during a lesson.
For about a week, it’ll be non-stop, back and forth, in and out of the desks, and most likely predominantly the same student.
Pay no attention to it.
I promise, after a week or so, it’ll just wane off.
They won’t want to continue to keep getting out of their seats because they see it’s not getting them any attention.
You’re addressing the situation.
Once they write it once, it may not be as exciting to tell on somebody again after that when they don’t see that you’re going to make a big deal out of it and yell at the other student in front of the class, or call them out on it.
You just keep going about your business and I promise it will subside, so you can get some normalcy back in your classroom.
Now if you have very young students that can’t write full sentences, first grade maybe, or you have a special ed student with writing skills that are not what they need to be to fill that slip out (or they choose not to write), you certainly could put a mini tape recorder in the basket as well and have them just quietly whisper into the tape recording and leave it.
Don’t rewind it, don’t fast forward it. At the end of the week, you can rewind all the way to the beginning and listen to what’s on the tape as well as a differentiation option.
Tattling can certainly be very frustrating when you’re stopping instructional time constantly to take care of it.
After a couple weeks when the students adjust to this program, you will find that they definitely become less dependent on you to make everything okay.
They learn that they can be in control of their own feelings, get it taken care of and move on.
You are actually teaching so many emotional skills by implanting this process as well!
Need the printable Tell Me Slips?
Grab it below!
How else do you curb tattling in your classroom? We would love to hear in a comment below!