Classroom Management Tip: Tattling

Every day this week, I am featuring one of Annette Breaux’s classroom management tips and my experiences using them on the first day. I am confident you will take something positive away from at least one of these tips! (And if you do, make sure you let Annette know!)

Today’s tip: Stopping tattlers in their tracks.

  • In theory: If you’re like me – or 99 % of teachers – tattling is something for which you have minimal patience. This is a way to get tattlers to realize the insignificance of the majority of the issues they bring to you about other students. Annette suggests that you establish an expectation that it is only acceptable for a student to report something to the teacher about another student if the offensive action results in an affirmative response to one of two questions: “Is the other student’s life in danger?” or, “Is this greatly affecting your life?” When the student comes up to you to tattle about something, you stop and ask, “Your life?” This reminds them of the expectation, and when they stop to realize that whatever they’re coming to tell you isn’t such a big deal, they turn away.
  • In practice: There have been isolated cases of tattling in my class this year because, as the older we get, the less inclined we become to share every minor detail about every other person’s business with the teacher. However, it turned out that on Friday, a student did come up to me to say something about another, and it didn’t appear to me that it’d be something very flattering. Since there was nothing in place that would allow me to simply ask, “Your life?” for the desired effect, I stopped the student and said, “Wait, before you tell me, answer this: Is the other student’s life in danger? No? Okay, is what you’re going to tell me really affecting you or making things bad for you? No? Okay. Then maybe you don’t need to tell me.” The student did reflect and wound up agreeing it wasn’t that important.
  • Remember: This one will take a lot of building up to make into something solid. Students need to be made aware in a non-threatening way that certain behaviors are injurious to classroom harmony and are not tolerated. I like how asking the student to consider the reach of the offense they are reporting forces them to reflect. I think it’s a great way to cause students to think, then act, as opposed to act, then think.

Try it and share with us how it went!


2 responses to “Classroom Management Tip: Tattling

  1. I have been doing something similar for a long time and it is very effective. Students may only talk to me about something that directly involves them (using an “I-statement”). As soon as they start with someone else’s name, I put up my hand to stop them and ask “What about you?” When they realize they can’t frame their comment as an “I-statement”, they reconsider. Of course, we do make exceptions for life threatening situations.

  2. In our classroom, we have discussed the difference between dobbing and telling – with dobbing being trying to get a student into trouble and telling when a student is trying to keep themselves and others safe. Students are allowed a dob a day. They must choose carefully when to use it, as dobbing at 9 am means no further dobs that day. Quite quickly a day passes without a dob! Especially when my response to dobs is simply “Thanks for that information” and no further action.

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