Saint Mary’s University i.t.a. Program

Helping children read!

An After-School Intervention Program

Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota has offered the i.t.a. Literacy Clinic, an after-school intervention program for struggling readers, since 1988. The financial support of the Initial Teaching Alphabet Foundation has enabled Saint Mary’s to offer free one-on-one tutoring to K-12 students, using the research-based protocols developed by Dr. Jane Flynn. (For more information on the effectiveness of i.t.a. for remediation of reading disabilities/dyslexia, visit our Research page.)


Undergraduate and graduate education majors, under the supervision of a K-12 Reading Teacher, gain valuable experience for working with reading, spelling, and writing disabilities while providing intervention to 40-55 K-12 students each year.

By tutoring struggling readers, they learn how to use the initial teaching alphabet to: (1) develop phonemic awareness in young children at risk, (2) remediate phonological and spelling deficits in older students and (3) increase reading by an average of two grade levels in one year.

Repeated Oral Assisted Reading (ROAR)

If a student is reading at 4th grade or higher, we use regular reading materials at the student’s instructional level to increase reading accuracy and fluency, using Repeated Oral Assisted Reading (ROAR). For those reading 3rd grade and below, no matter how old they are, we have found that they will gain fluency faster by reading from the i.t.a. books provided by the Initial Teaching Alphabet Foundation, Hauppauge, New York.

(1) Introduction

(2) Getting Ready

(3) Practice Session

(4) Monitoring Progress

(5) Research

(6) Monitoring Interventions

Spelling by Sound: Intervention Using i.t.a.

Good spellers have a dual image in their brains of words that they know how to read and spell: the correct spelling of the word, and a phonetic rendition that “calls up” the pronunciation of the words. Most poor spellers did not master the phonemic skills in kindergarten-first grade that are needed to spell phonetically; because they can’t spell phonetically, spell checkers are not helpful to them.

(1) Introduction

(2) Slash and Dash #1

(3) Writing in i.t.a.

Using i.t.a. to Correct Phonological Deficits in Older Students

Our remediation protocol, “Slash and Dash,” uses age-appropriate, content-area vocabulary to help them crack the “sound code” of written English and find the correct spelling of unknown words in Franklin electronic spellers or computer spell checker.

(1) Sound Detective #1

(2) Slash and Dash #2

(3) Slash and Dash w/ Danica

Spelling by Pattern: Phonics For Struggling Readers

Phonics begins when students realize that the same sound can be made by different letters (for example, learning when to use “c” or “k” for /k/ sound at the beginning of words), and that the same letter can make different sounds. When students sort words and discover patterns, they learn powerful strategies for self-teaching; Spelling no longer seems like a guessing game, or something dependent on visual memory alone. Using the i.t.a. symbols to go from sound to pattern sets them on this journey of self-discovery.

(1) Sound Detective #2

(2) Spelling by Pattern #1

(3) Spelling by Pattern #2

Testimonials of Parents and Teachers

Gracey is a student who has received help in Saint Mary’s i.t.a. Literacy Clinic. Her mother talks about what the program has meant for Gracey and her family.

Hannah’s Mother reflects on the past frustration and present success in reading she has seen in Hannah since attending the i.t.a. Literacy Clinic at Saint Mary’s University.

At first skeptical about the use of the initial teaching alphabet for reading interventions, an elementary teacher tells of her successful experience using i.t.a. with a struggling reader.