Diverse group of elementary students raise their hands to answer a question.

Develop Student Communication & Advocacy Skills: Help Your Students Understand Tattling vs Telling

Communicative skills develop when there’s something meaningful for children to communicate about-when they are taking an active role.

– Lilian Katz

Activity: Tattling vs Telling


Print the provided Tattling vs. Telling Cards PDF, and cut the squares into individual cards.

You may want to design your own cards with examples that will resonate with your group of students.

Hang chart paper on the wall, and draw a column down the middle.

On the left side, write the word Tattling.


Ask students to define tattling.

  • What is tattling?

  • When might someone tattle?


Write Telling in the right-hand column.

Ask students:

  • What is telling?

  • How is it different from tattling?

  • When might someone tell?


Tell students they will play a game to see if they can tell the differences between tattling and telling.

Have students take turns pulling the printed cards from a bowl (etc) and reading them aloud.

Decide as a community whether the situation is tattling or telling.

As cards are sorted, tape them into the correct column on the chart so students can refer to the examples in the future.


Review the chart and notice that telling happens when someone’s safety or property is in jeopardy, but tattling happens when a problem is reported that can be solved on your own or with a friend.

  • Choose 1-2 tattling cards and ask students how they might solve the situations on their own.


Show students the provided Something’s Bugging Me Slips PDF.

Let them know that you hope they will try to solve problems together with their friends, but that they can always come directly to you when something is bugging them, especially a safety concern.

  • Show students the slips and model filling one out.

  • Dedicate a place for students to submit a slip when they are worried, and commit to checking back in with them within a specified amount of time after receiving a slip.

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