There are two kinds of behavior that really seem to bother middle school kids: snitches and actions they typically label as wimpy or wussy.
Dennis knew that this was the case, but he couldn’t help wondering, “When is it okay, even good, to tattle and when is it a mistake?” Plus, Dennis did not like the word “tattle.” He thought, “I don’t like the word “tattle.” It seems like such a little kid thing to do. I know some kids call it snitching. But is there a better, more mature, term to use?”
Then one day, Dennis got put in Mr. Campbell’s Communication Skills class.
On the very first day, Mr. Campbell described the three class rules. Mr. Campbell said, “Class, the most important rule we have in this room is rule number one. Do I have a volunteer to read that rule loud and clear?”
Judy, who loved to talk and be in the spotlight, immediately raised her hand. Mr. Campbell pointed to her, looked at her name label on her desk, and said, “Go ahead, Judy.”
Judy read Rule #1, “”One person talks at a time.”
Tyler, who loved seeing how much he could safely get away with, said, “But Mr. Campbell?”
Mr. Campbell said, “Yes, Tyler?”
Tyler said, “This class is called “Communication.” That should mean that we all should be able to talk as much as we want.”
Mr. Campbell’s eyes twinkled with amusement. Tyler wasn’t the first student who had tried that ploy, and he probably wouldn’t be the last. Mr. Campbell said, “Nice try, Tyler! You have the title of this class half right. It’s called “Communication SKILLS.” That means this class will be partially about learning the SKILLS of good communication.”
Tyler looked a little abashed but also pleasantly surprised. He thought, “Hmmmmmmm! I think Mr. Campbell might be sort of okay. He didn’t get all bent out of shape when I kind of smarted off there. He actually sounded kind of RESPECTFUL. Of course, it’s only the first day. I wonder what he’ll be like as the quarter goes on?”
Mr. Campbell then continued, “So in this class, only one person should talk at a time. That means that when Tyler is talking, we all should be focused in on Tyler, actively listening to what he has to say. The same thing goes when Judy talks, or I talk, or any one of you talks.”
The class liked the fact that it sounded like their ideas were going to be listened to with RESPECT.
Mr. Campbell said, “I am very strict when it comes to this rule. We have a lot of fun in this class as long as you remember that only one person speaks at a time.”
The class stirred a little uncomfortably. They didn’t much like it when a teacher said that he or she is strict. They felt even more tense when he started describing the consequences of breaking that rule.
Mr. Campbell said, “For your protection, I will give you my dictionary definition for “talking.” My dictionary definition for talking is: TALKING: Your mouth is moving and there is volume of some kind coming out, whether you are talking to others, talking to yourself, whispering, singing, or making sound effects of any kind.”
Dennis looked over at his friend Tyler and shook his head. Dennis thought, “Man! This teacher sounds tough! I’ve heard a few kids say this was their favorite class. I can’t imagine why, with a rule like that.”
Mr. Campbell asked, “Any questions about rule number one?”
No one said a thing. I suppose a few of them were a little afraid to open their mouth. Finally, Cindy raised her hand and asked, “So, Mr. Campbell? Do we always have to raise our hand and stuff?”
Mr. Campbell said, “No. Just time yourself so that your talking does not overlap somebody else’s talking.”
Cindy said, “That could be a tough thing to do.”
Mr. Campbell said, “You’ve managed it so far, Cindy. It helps to be keenly observant of the person who is currently talking. You’ll need to decide if they are simply taking a breath or whether they have completed their thought. Any other questions?”
When no one said anything, Mr. Campbell went on to explain the second rule. He asked, “Okay, do we have a volunteer to read aloud rule number two?”
Again Judy raised her hand. But Mr. Campbell liked to give lots of kids a chance to participate. Walking around and reading desk labels, he asked, “John! Would you please read rule number two loud and clear?”
John read, “Okay! The Golden Rule prevails. Treat each person even better than you wish to be treated.”
Mr. Campbell said, “Thank you, John! This room is a safe zone from put-downs. That means you do not call somebody dumb or stupid or say that their ideas are dumb or stupid or any meaner name than that.”
Tyler asked, “What can we say then?”
Mr. Campbell said, “If you feel an irresistible impulse to put somebody down, you may safely say that they are:
2. or “foolish,”
3. or “goofy,”
4. or “weird,”
5. or “crazy,”
6. or “silly goose.”
Those words are all fine. In this class, WE CAN ATTACK AN ACTION, BUT IT IS NOT ACCEPTABLE TO ATTACK ANYBODY’S PERSONHOOD. We treat each other with RESPECT.”
Several of the kids in the class had never heard a teacher talk like that before. They couldn’t decide if they agreed with what Mr. Campbell was saying, but he definitely was making them think.
Mr. Campbell said, “Now! Something I’ve noticed about put-downs is that it usually happens in such a way that a teacher can’t hear. So if someone puts you down and I don’t hear it, I would like you to try to positively handle it on your own. Then if that doesn’t work, let me know and that person’s name will be written down on the Behavior Clipboard under the Put-Down category.”
Now this was starting to get to the heart of what Dennis had been wondering about lately. He asked, “What do you mean by trying to handle it on our own?”
Mr. Campbell said, “Excellent question, Dennis! The main focus of this class is to learn many conflict resolution techniques.”
Cindy asked, “What’s conflict resolution?”
Judy said, “I know! I’ve had a friend take this class. She said you try to teach us some positive ways to deal with conflict.”
Mr. Campbell said, “That’s true! Thank you, Judy! So, back to the question posed by Dennis. If somebody puts you down and it bothers you, raise your hand. Then REPORT what happened.
Dennis asked, “You mean tattle?”
Tyler asked, “Or snitch?”
Mr. Campbell said, “I prefer to call it RESPONSIBLE REPORTING. I will give you class time to turn to that person, with us as witnesses, to use an ‘I Message’, requesting them to stop. If they sincerely apologize and agree to stop, there will be no consequences. But if they do that “attitude thing” or sound as if they plan to continue, then that person will get his or her name written down on the Behavior Clipboard under the Put-Down category.”
Judy asked, “What do you mean exactly?”
Mr. Campbell said, “Okay, will someone give me permission to use him or her as our imaginary name caller?”
Several of the kids raised their hands. Mr. Campbell was starting to learn a few names without having to refer to their name tags. He called out, “Thank you, Tyler! Okay, let’s pretend that Tyler called someone a name.”
Again, Mr. Campbell looked around the room. This time, he chose Judy. He said, “Thank you, Judy! Okay, Tyler — just pretend — you called Judy a name she did not like. Judy, just for the sake of this exercise, what did Tyler call you?”
Judy said, “Uh, …, hmmmmmm. He called me “shorty.” I don’t like it when kids do that.”
Mr. Campbell said, “Okay, Tyler! Begin, please!”
Tyler yelled, “Okay! Hey, shorty!”
Mr. Campbell said, “Then Judy, you decide you don’t wish to let this pass. This isn’t the first time in our pretend scenario he has called you that and you’re afraid it won’t be his last. So you raise your hand and REPORT what Tyler did.”
Judy asked, “What would I say?”
Mr. Campbell said, “You could say something like, ‘Mr. Campbell? Tyler called me a name I did NOT like. I would like to use an ‘I Message’ to get him to stop.’ Try that, please.”
Judy said, “Mr. Campbell, Tyler called me a very RUDE name! I would like to try an ‘I Message’ on him.”
Mr. Campbell said, “All right, Judy. Go ahead.”
Judy said, “Uh, I’m not sure I know how to do an ‘I Message’.”
Mr. Campbell pointed to his ‘I Message’ Sentence Starters poster and said, “This poster has many ‘I Message’ Sentence Starters. Begin your sentence with one of these and put in a ‘because’ or a good reason why you wish him to change his behavior.”
Judy looked the list over:
‘I Message’ Sentence Starters:
* I want . . .
* I feel . . .
* I would appreciate it if . . .
* I think . . .
* I need . . .
* I expect . . .
* I wish . . .
Then Judy firmly said, “Tyler, I expect you to NOT call me “shorty” because my height is something I can’t do anything about.”
Mr. Campbell said, “Excellent! Now we all turn to Tyler and wait to hear what he has to say. Judy, you are the judge and the plaintiff. Class, you are the jury. Tyler is the defendant. I am the deciding swing vote if I feel the class does not vote fair. We will not only actively listen to Tyler’s words, we will watch his facial expressions and his body language. We will also listen to the tone of his voice, the words he chooses to say, and how he says those words. Together, we will decide if Tyler’s apology sounds sincere.”
Sandra asked, “What happens to him if we think he’s sincerely sorry?”
Mr. Campbell said, “You students will vote, as you all are the jury; however, Judy is the judge. If she feels like he is truly no longer DISRESPECTING her, there will be no consequence.”
Sandra asked, “What if it sounds like he’s NOT really sorry?”
Mr. Campbell said, “Try it both ways. Judy, would you say your ‘I Message’ again using a very RESPECTFUL tone of voice? Then the first time, Tyler, you will sound and be RESPECTFUL back.”
Judy said, “Okay. I’m going to choose a different beginning. Tyler, I WOULD REALLY APPRECIATE IT IF you don’t call me “shorty” as it makes me feel bad.“
As respectfully as he could, Tyler said, “Okay, I’m sorry, Judy! I won’t do it again!”
Mr. Campbell asked, “All right. Class, you’re the jury. How many of you felt he sounded sincere?”
Most of the class raised their hands. Then Mr. Campbell turned to Judy and said, “Judy, you’re the judge. Do you feel as if he’s going to be more RESPECTFUL now?”
Judy said, “Yeah, I do.”
Mr. Campbell said, “Then I would say, ‘The verdict is in. There will be no consequence.’ Then we continue on with our class.”
John asked, “Hey, Mr. Campbell?”
Mr. Campbell said, “Yes, John?”
John said, “What if he’s just faking it, and he calls her that again?”
Mr. Campbell said, “Excellent question! In that case, if Tyler calls Judy that exact word or a similar word, and she appears bothered, then he will certainly get his name written down on the Behavior Clipboard under the Put-Down category.”
Tyler asked, “Hey, Mr. Campbell?”
Mr. Campbell said, “Yes, Tyler”
Tyler asked, “Do I get to do it the other way now?”
Mr. Campbell said, “Yes, Tyler. Judy, let’s do a rewind. Please say your ‘I Message’ again.”
Judy said, “Okay, I want to try a different one out. Uh, …, Tyler, I wish you would not call me that name because I can’t help how tall I am.“
Tyler really emphasized the word “SHORTY!” and he definitely did the attitude thing as he snapped, “Yes, you can! Oh, all right! I’m sorry! I won’t call you — SHORTY!!! — again.”
Mr. Campbell said, “Okay, jury! How many of you believe Tyler is being sincere in his apology?”
Only a couple of kids raised their hands.
Mr. Campbell said, “Judy, you’re the judge. The majority of the jury voted that Tyler was NOT being sincere. Do you feel he is going to honor your request from now on?”
Judy said, “No way!”
Mr. Campbell said, “Then Tyler, in that case, you will get your name written down on the Behavior Clipboard under the Put-Down category. By the way — good acting, Tyler!”
Tyler said, “Thanks! That was kind of fun.”
Mr. Campbell said, “So glad you approve! We do a ton of role-playing and skit situations in this class. Does everybody now understand how to do this?”
Kids all over the class nodded their heads affirmatively. Then Mr. Campbell went over the last rule. He asked, “Do I have a volunteer to read rule number three out loud? Thank you, Sandra.”
Sandra read, “You may make decisions and choices about your behavior as long as it doesn’t cause a problem for the teacher, your classmates, or yourself.” Sandra thought for a moment and then said, “I suppose that covers all the rest of what you expect of us. Is that right?”
Mr. Campbell said, “Exactly right, Sandra! Rule #3 covers every other rule that every classroom and every school has: no hitting, no kicking, don’t be tardy, and so forth.”
Dennis looked at Mr. Campbell and decided, “You know, I think this will be a fun class! And at least, I now know a better word to use than tattle and snitch. RESPONSIBLE REPORTING does sound like a lot more sophisticated term than either of those other words. Of course, I still don’t know the total answer to my question about when it is okay to do that RESPONSIBLE REPORTING thing and when I should just keep what I know to myself. But I have a feeling that we may actually cover that sometime before this nine weeks is out. As for Mr. Campbell, there sure doesn’t seem to be anything wimpy or wussy about him.”
Before anything else could happen, the dismissal bell rang. Mr. Campbell called out, “Have a nice day, everyone! See you tomorrow!”
Dennis, Tyler, and the other kids gathered their books from under their desk and walked on to their next class. On the way out, Judy turned to Cindy and said, “That class was kind of fun!”
Return to Communication Skills Lesson Plan- Dennis Learns About Responsible Reporting Versus Tattling