What is the initial teaching alphabet (i.t.a.)?
The initial teaching alphabet (i.t.a.) is a phonemic alphabet that represents the 44 sounds of spoken English. It was designed to give beginning readers a logical and reliable reading and writing system.
When students understand that print is speech written down, that words are made up of speech sounds, that the symbols and the speech sounds agree, they can read anything that they understand. When they know how to form the symbols, they can write anything they can say.
As they become fluent readers and writers in i.t.a., they become aware of the conventional spellings in traditional orthography. They know that they can write one third of the words that are similar and the one third that are slightly different. The rest of the words they know they must learn to spell. They become proficient readers and writers without struggling with complex spelling patterns in the beginning stages of literacy development.
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 i.t.a. intervention programs beginning readers (K-2nd grade) who are demonstrating difficulties mastering early reading/writing skills are tutored to help them:
- Understand how spoken words can be analyzed by counting, adding, substituting or deleting sounds (phonemic awareness)
- Understand how spoken sounds are represented by letters (phonics)
- Spell unknown words by sound, a crucial step in learning to read and spell
How does 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. In the projects sponsored by the i.t.a, Foundation, tutors use research-validated strategies and i.t.a. reading materials to help students who have not mastered grade-level reading skills. These intervention protocols are designed to help struggling readers:
- Decode words quickly and accurately
- Read fluently using Repeated Oral Assisted Reading (ROAR)
- Increase reading accuracy
- Develop automaticity so that cognitive energy can be devoted to comprehension