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Home » Blog » Social Skills » Ideas for Handling Tattling in the Classroom

Ideas for Handling Tattling in the Classroom

SEL & Character, Social Skills, Tips & Hacks

Written by: Mary Kate Bolinder

Tattling in the classroom is one of the most challenging behaviors to manage. It can be draining, distracting, and downright frustrating! Keep reading for creative and constructive ways to tame the tattling.

Why Do Students Tattle?

It is essential to create a classroom where every student feels safe, respected, and comfortable. Every behavior stems from a need, so let's consider the many causes of tattling. Is a student feeling frustrated or annoyed with another student or situation? Are they testing boundaries? Are they seeking a connection with you? Do they need assistance with problem-solving skills? Whatever the reason, it is important for students to feel that they can always trust you as an adult to be there to listen to them. But how can we help students learn the difference between tattling and helping?

THINK Before you Speak

Before you speak, THINK classroom chart

Use the THINK Acronym to help students check themselves before they tattle:

Before you speak, THINK. Is it:






Tattling Vs. Reporting

tattling versus reporting chart

There is a big difference between tattling and reporting, but it can be hard for students to distinguish.

Tattling is telling information to get someone into trouble

Reporting is telling information to get someone out of trouble.

As a class, make a T chart and discuss or even act out different scenarios that happen in the classroom. Classify each as either tattling or reporting.

Give Students an Opportunity to Talk

Students who frequently tattle may be searching for an audience. Give all students an opportunity to talk about how they are feeling during morning meeting, or other classroom share times.

The Problem Jar

Problem jar to reduce tattling in the classroom.

We know it's not always possible to listen to every student right away. Many teachers use a Problem Jar, where students can write their problems or worries, and the teacher will read them later. This helps students to get what they need to say off their chest, and also gives teachers an insight into how students are feeling in the classroom.

I love my problem jar! We go through the problems (without using names) during Morning Meeting. The kids have to come up with solutions to the problems as a class. My goal is for the kids to eventually solve their own problems, but the problem jar lets them be heard. – Mandy P.

Problem Solving Toothy

Problem-solving is a skill that we (even teachers!) work on our entire lives. Help students become better problem solvers by playing Problem Solving Toothy, a fun and engaging game that gives real-life examples of problem-solving skills in the classroom.

Problem solving game to teach kids a proactive way to handle tattling.

Tootle Instead of Tattle!

Put a positive spin on student behavior. Says one Lucky 2nd Grade Teacher: “I like the tattle monster and tattle phone but also try tootles! Tootles are when you “toot” someone's horn and tell something they did that was good. It is a game changer. They will tootle instead and it builds classroom community.” – Angela N.

Strategies to Handle Tattling in the Classroom from Lucky 2nd Grade Teachers

The teachers in our Lucky 2nd Grade Teachers Facebook group have so many clever ideas to help stop the tattling in the classroom. You can join in the conversation here.

I always ask “ Are you trying to help the person or trying to get them in trouble?” We also have a discussion about how to help instead of get someone in trouble. It usually stops a few times after asking them.

– Laura S.

 I explain tattling as sharing information for the sole purpose of getting another person in trouble. Then, when a student tries to tattle, I simply ask them “why are you telling me?” They almost always recognize it as tattling themselves.

– Brianna

Have you discussed ant problems and elephant problems? This works beautifully, especially if you say, “I’d like you to stop and think – Is this an ant or an elephant problem?” – they soon get it

– Shannon H.

We do bug and a wish. It bugs me when….I wish you would….. Once you practice it for a bit they can do it on their own.

– Amy D.

I used to use a tattle phone. I’d talk to my students about what they should come to me about and what is a tattle. I put an old phone in my room and some kids would spend time on it, thinking they were leaving me a voicemail. They got out whatever they needed to say and I didn’t have to hear the constant tattling.

-Erin G.

I have had a Tattling Turtle plush I have used for years. There’s a container and I put index cards and a few pencils. My kiddos know…they can write it down in a complete sentence using a capital letter and a punctuation mark. I make sure I address each scholar's concerns. It is done discreetly never to embarrass anyone. This has helped me with the tattling in my classroom because it can definitely get out of hand. Helps me keep my sanity as well. 

– Patricia B.

Classroom Read Alouds About Tattling

A great read aloud helps students connect a story to real-life experiences. These thoughtful and engaging read alouds discuss tattling on an age-appropriate level.

The Sour Grape

A Bad Case of the Tattle Tongue

Miles McHale, Tattletale

Don't Squeal Unless It's a Big Deal!

Teacher Resources About Tattling in the Classroom

Teachers come back to this book time and time again to gain new perspectives on challenging classroom behaviors.

What strategies work for you to help tame tattling in the classroom? Tell us in the comments below. You may also be interested in these related posts:


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