Teach Tootling, the Hottest New Technique in Classrooms (and Beyond)

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26 Dec 2012

I was researching for a Continuing Education course that I was writing and I came across this new technique that teachers are using in the classroom called tootling.

Besides the cute name, it caught my eye and held my attention because it makes so much sense. We are used to hearing tattling, where children report on their peers or sibling’s bad behavior.  Tootling is the opposite of tattling. It is a new and innovative way that teachers have found to build rapport between classmates and enhance peer relationships.

This is how it works. It is pretty simple. Children are encouraged to let their teacher know about their peers’ positive behavior. To introduce the concept in the classroom, teacher give students given examples of what is considered a tootle:

iStock_000011628286XSmall“Shimmy lent me a pencil.”

“Someone was making fun of me at recess and Sara stood up for me.”

“Eli helped me figure out this math problem.”

Tootling is great because it reinforce positive behavior in students as children focus on being positive about their neighbor’s behavior. Teachers who have used this have seen whole classrooms and their environments improve. This is positive psychology in action.

This can be a real boon for a child who is struggling academically and socially. Students with problem behaviors are often ostracized by their more appropriate peers. Tootling helps children recognize and praise pro-social behavior in a struggling peer. This encourages children to look for the good and gives the struggling student a boost of confidence.

This seems like such a Jewish concept. It reminds me of Pirkei Avot 4:2: Mitzvah goreret mitzvah: One good deed begets another good deed.

I always learned that this meant if you watch someone do a mitzvah then you will be inspired to do one yourself. Alternatively, if you do a mitzvah, then you will feel so good that you will want to do another mitzvah. Finally, it can mean that if you do mitzvot it eventually becomes a habit and you will automatically find yourself doing good.

Tootling can encompass all explanations of this mishna. Once one child lets the teacher know about another child’s good behavior you can imagine that it would inspire the other children in the class to follow suit. It usually increases the number of positive interactions that occur spontaneously in the classroom.

It feels good to bring another child’s positive behavior to light, and can even be somewhat addictive. And the more this is done in the classroom the more of a habit it will become for all the students.

Now the real test is to see if this can work at home as well between siblings. I can’t wait to try it out!


Adina Soclof, MS. CCC-SLP, works as a Parent Educator for Bellefaire Jewish Children’s Bureau facilitating How to Talk so Kids will Listen and Listen so Kids will Talk workshops as well as workshops based on Siblings Without Rivalry. Adina also runs parentingsimply.com

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.