I’m very excited to take part in the Summer Book Study alongside Pre-K Pages, PreKinders, Teach Preschool, and Kathy Griffin’s Teaching Strategies. Rather than just one book, we’ll be focusing on one topic — challenging behaviors in the classroom. I’ll be focusing on tattling in preschool today. It seems to pop up in almost every conversation I have with other teachers about classroom management.
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Books to help with challenging behaviors in the classroom
When I completed my teaching credential program, my adviser handed me a copy of Jane Nelsen’s book Positive Discipline. Over the years, I’ve referenced it many times, taking from it information that would help my teaching. There are now so many off-shoots of this book for different age groups, for parents, for caregivers, and for teachers. I specifically referenced Positive Discipline: A Teacher’s A-Z Guide for today’s topic.
Why kids tattle
In my experience, young children tattle for the following reasons:
- They aren’t sure how to deal with a problem on their own.
- They want to get their peers “in trouble” with the teacher.
- They’re strict rule followers and want reassurance that what they’re doing is right.
Nelsen makes a great point that teachers and parents may be encouraging tattling, too! Jumping right in and solving kids’ disputes doesn’t give children the chance to problem solve on their own. Saying, “don’t tattle” doesn’t give the children detailed information about how to resolve the problems.
How to stop tattling
I’ll admit it, my first reaction to an overabundance of tattling is often frustration! I think that frustration stems from the constant interruptions, as well as the concern that I’ve made my students too reliant on me. As with most things in the classroom, this can be solved through teaching and re-teaching! Taking a step away from my initial reaction and focusing on the children’s needs is an important first step. A few more ideas:
Assess the situation.
Ensure that no one has been hurt (if so, it’s not really a case of tattling). Consider what might have led to the tattling – both the circumstances and the tattling child’s intent.
Listen to the child’s concerns. Even if he has a tendency to tattle, his thoughts and feelings are still important. It helps nurture the teacher-student relationship when he knows you’ll listen to him. Listening will also help determine why the student is tattling.
Ask questions! “How can you solve that problem?” is a favorite of mine, usually followed by, “Do you think it would help if you (insert a suggestion for solving the problem)?” Other questions might include:
- “How do you want me to help you?”
- “Have you spoken with your friend about this?”
- “What should you do next?”
- Nelsen suggests asking, “How is that a problem for you?” to remind children they should be concerned about their own choices (if they’re tattling about someone else’s problem).
Questions allow children to be walked through solving their problems. Questions also allow students to creatively problem solve in a safe environment.
Discuss tattling vs. sharing information
This can be a hard distinction for young children to understand. Explain it simply and give them examples. To me, tattling is focused on getting someone else in trouble. Sharing information is focused on helping others. There are so many “reporting versus tattling” charts out and about, so perhaps make one for the classroom. Nelsen encourages brainstorming with students on this topic – so letting the kids help create a class chart would be a good end to a discussion about tattling.
Teach problem solving.
As with most classroom behavior concerns, it’s incredibly important to teach the kiddos what to do. When it comes to tattling, it’s paramount to teach children how to solve problems and work things out with their friends. Giving them these skills will significantly lessen tattling problems in the classroom (especially when coupled with how the teacher responds to tattling). Positive Discipline: A Teacher’s A-Z Guide suggests the idea of classroom meetings to deal with tattling. They are a great way to touch on problem solving and conflict resolution!
Here are a few more ideas:
- Teacher Modeling – Model what to think before approaching the teacher to tell on someone. For example, I might say aloud to my students, “Wow! I see there are 5 people in the nature center, but Ms. Mary Catherine said we can only have 3 people there! I’m going to tell the teacher. Oh wait, is it really my business? Are they hurting anyone? Maybe they just got too excited and forgot the rules. I could go over and nicely remind my friends about the rules. I could also leave them alone and let Ms. Mary Catherine take care of it.” I also find injecting some humor into these think alouds really helps the children remember what I’ve modeled!
- Role Playing – Get those students involved in the process and let them practice. Have 2 kids come up and act out a scene. As they do so, ask guiding questions and make suggestions as to how to handle a situation before tattling. Most likely, the other children will help out, too!
How do you deal with tattling in the classroom?
Questions to consider
If tattling is a big concern in the classroom, I’d suggest taking a few moments to consider the following questions. Afterwards, outline a plan to prevent tattling in your classroom.
- When does the most tattling occur?
- What are most of the tattles about?
- Which children need the most help with not tattling?
- Is my behavior adding to the problem? If so, how can I change my responses to prevent these issues in the future?
- When can I incorporate mini-lessons about problem solving?
Now it’s your turn! I’d love to hear how you are handling this concern in your classroom. What patterns have you seen, and what changes will you make for the next school year?
Summer Blog Book Study
If you’re interested in earning graduate credits for participating in this summers’ book study, please click here for more information. Additionally, here’s a FAQ link if you have any questions about the graduate credits.
PreKinders has all of the summer book studies on one convenient page here. This year’s books are located on that page, along with posts from each previous book study.
The next post in this series will be Wednesday, June 27th, over at PreKinders!
Every post from this year’s book study
As each post goes live, the authors will link them up below. This way you can reference all of the information in one spot! By the end of the summer, this will be an awesome resource when you’re facing challenging behaviors in the classroom.