GLAD® Charts and Overstimulation

general tips Mar 04, 2024

It was during an IEP meeting that I learned Nicholas would be joining my 4th grade classroom the following Monday. Nicholas was on the autism spectrum and had spent the first 4 years of his elementary school years bouncing back and forth between self-contained and mainstream classrooms. His parents were excited and hopeful for the mainstream placement, but surprisingly my biggest detractor was a colleague.  


The special education teacher, who monitored Nicholas's IEP and would be checking in on him monthly, did not want him placed in "the GLAD teacher's classroom." Her biggest concern was the overstimulation that would surely be a problem for him from all the charts posted on the walls. Yes, my classroom was covered with layers of chart paper that my students and I sketched on, wrote on, highlighted, covered with word cards and pictures, read, chanted, and recited on a daily basis.  


I knew Nicholas would most likely be fine, but I needed to convince my colleague.  


How do you avoid issues of overstimulation when your walls are covered with GLAD charts? 


  1. The first step is to ask yourself, "Is that (chart, picture, poster, etc.) a learning resource or a decoration? Do the students interact with it by using it as an academic tool or is it there because the teacher likes a pretty classroom? All those pre-printed posters we buy at the classroom supply store with inspirational quotes, classroom rules, and the steps to the scientific method are great! Don't get me wrong! But here's the (not-so secret) secret...after about a month they blend into the background and become wallpaper. No one looks at them or learns from them.  

 2. The second piece to the puzzle is to make sure the charts on your walls are co-created with the students. In a GLAD classroom, when a lesson involves a Pictorial Input Chart, the teacher starts on day 1 creating the pictorial in front of the class. It is revealed in real time. They watch the image unfold in front of them. They say the vocabulary words that are now written in a place they can refer back to.  Our walls are bare at the beginning of a unit. As new lessons are taught, the language functional environment is built with the students when new charts are added during each lesson. The charts are read and interacted with on a daily basis.  


When the charts are created in front of students and they are used so often as a resource that the students take ownership of them they are not decorative wallpaper that is overstimulating. They are academic tools that are proudly shown off to parents and visitors as evidence of our learning.  


For Nicholas, we made sure that he joined our class at the beginning of a unit when the walls were bare. I taught Rocks & Minerals in science that term and even though Nicholas spent most of his day sitting under his desk because that was a safe place for him, I knew he was learning. How did I know? 


Nicholas's learning style was grounded in musical patterns and rhymes. He could often be heard repeating rhyming words over and over. I knew that the intentional patterning found in GLAD strategies and on our charts would speak to his learning style and maybe, just maybe, I could get him to put pencil to paper for the first time in his school career.  


So, when the first monthly observation was scheduled and the special education teacher arrived and asked, "How's he doing?", I invited her join him underneath his desk to find out. She emerged with a spiral notebook where Nicholas has written down 6 poems and chants about rocks and minerals. The look on her face spoke volumes. Another GLAD convert!  


As for Nicholas, I wrote his chants on chart paper in marker colors that he chose, posted them in the classroom, and we all chanted about Rocks and Minerals by Nicholas.  

Thanks for reading!

Jody & Sara


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