Me: Okay. Let's talk about your choices.
Child: Teacher, he said I'm a banana.
Me: Are you a banana? No. Okay, tell him you're not a banana.
About two months ago, I was listening to every minor and major conflict in my classroom, and getting pretty exhausted in the process. Despite using every conflict to "teach" a way to resolve conflict, the children were still seeking out a teacher to initiate the process every time.
In order to teach the children some clear alternatives, I created some whole group lessons on tattling vs. reporting. The first lesson came in the form of a story. "A Bad Case of Tattle Tongue"
I used this story to introduce the concept of tattling. We read the story and then talked about what tattling is. We also talked about times that the kids could handle it vs. times it was important to get a grown up to help.
We read this story several times in one week and I wrote down the examples the kids gave me on tattling vs. reporting. My co-teacher and I also continued with our daily reinforcements. When a child would tattle, one of us would ask the child to ask the child if it was something they could handle.
A no answer from the child would prompt a quick problem solving conversation. A yes answer would would prompt a, "I knew you could handle it!" response.
About two weeks in, we still had a lot of tattling so I created a small group game to reinforce what we were teaching. The game looks like this:
There are three categories on the game board: get a teacher, I can handle it, and ignore it.
A teacher would lead the game and sort the problem in the picture by what the best solution is. We chose the most common issues in our classroom and played this game everyday during center time. Within a week, the kids were experts and all our strategies together were starting to work.
By the end of week 4, I started to hear the kids tell each other "you can handle it" or "That's important. You should tell Miss J." Success!!
And I'm happy to report that we've been, mostly, tattle free since.