Saint Mary’s University i.t.a. Program
Helping children read!
The Initial Teaching Alphabet (i.t.a.)
The Initial Teaching Alphabet (i.t.a.) is a phonetic alphabet with a symbol for each of the 44 spoken sounds in English. It is similar to the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) used by linguists, foreign language student, speech therapists, singers, actors, and lexicographers to represent the spoken sounds of any language. But i.t.a. is a simpler alphabet, originally designed to help young children master early reading skills.
Our use of i.t.a. is quite different from the i.t.a. early reading programs of the 1960s. In our i.t.a. literacy clinic, we use the alphabet with research-validated strategies for early intervention with children at risk, and remediation of older students who have failed to acquire grade-level reading and writing skills. We use the i.t.a. readers only for building accuracy and fluency in students who are reading well below expected grade level.
How does i.t.a. help children at risk of reading failure?
While research supports early acquisition of reading fluency in languages that are phonetically regular, reading acquisition is much more difficult for English-speaking children because of the complex sound-spelling system of the English language.
In our clinic we provide one-on-one tutoring for beginning readers (K-2nd grade) who are demonstrating difficulties mastering early reading/writing skills. Our research-based i.t.a. intervention helps them: (1) Understand how spoken words can be analyzed by counting, adding, substituting or deleting sounds (phonemic awareness), (2) Understand how spoken sounds are represented by letters (phonics), (3) Spell unknown words by sound, a crucial step in learning to read and spell.
How does the i.t.a. help remediate reading disabilities in older students?
Although the initial teaching alphabet was originally designed for use in beginning reading programs, i.t.a. is very effective for remediation of reading and writing disabilities in older students. Our tutors use research-validated strategies and i.t.a. reading materials to help students who have not mastered grade-level reading skills.
Our intervention protocols are designed to help struggling readers: (1) Decode words quickly and accurately, (2) Read fluently using Repeated Oral Assisted Reading (ROAR), (3) Increase reading accuracy, (4) Develop automaticity so that cognitive energy can be devoted to comprehension