ITA: Initial Teaching Alphabet

I wrote a little while back about my opposition to simplifying the spelling of English, but today one of my colleagues mentioned that he remembered a simplified spelling system that was brought in at his school for a year or so. This must have been back in the late 60s.

The Initial Teaching Alphabet, or ITA, relied on more than 40 characters (our alphabet plus a number of other characters to represent different vowel combinations and sounds such as the 'ng' of 'ring') to spell words in a more consistent, phonetic way. My colleague recalls entire books being written in ITA.

The idea was that children would initially learn to read in ITA, then move over to conventional English spelling. A number of schools brought ITA in, but it was never considered a resounding success. Many people who used ITA seem to blame it for their poor spelling in later life.

Incidentally, all ITA text was written in lower case, so I suppose it should really be called ita.

My colleague later found a BBC article about ITA that is of interest if you want to find out more. Or you can also see the full ITA alphabet online.

I'd be interested to hear from any Engine Room readers that have memories of ITA. Bonus points for anyone who writes in using the ITA alphabet!

64 comments:

gareth said...

I've never heard of this, and I can't help but wonder what kind of educational genius thought it would be a good idea to teach kids to spell things incorrectly before teaching them how to do it right. I mean, honestly...

Anonymous said...

He's right JD, what's wrong with just getting it right in the first place?!

Jane said...

I was also taught ITA at infant school. I remember being very cross when the teacher told me to write Jane as Jaen. As I remember, the a and e were linked together to form one letter making that 'a' sound, then at a later date you'd be told to move the 'e' to the end of the word. It seems very complicated but when we moved to junior school there were only three people in our class who had problems reading, and they'd all come from a different junior school. It's meant to help the slower readers and not hinder the quicker ones. It worked for my class anyway!

Dan Santow said...

I'm 47 and was raised in a suburb of Chicago and learned to read using ITA (or as you note, ita). Consequently, I'm a very fast reader but a lousy speller (whether this is due to ita I don't know, but I have to blame something and ita is as good a culprit as anythng). My most vivid memory of it is that I was forced to spell my name - then it was Danny; now it's a more manly Dan - using ita-centric characters. I can't do it here given the limited typography, but it was sort of (lowercase) "dancc" with those last two letters having a "strikethrough" connecting them. I think I was in an experimetal class (this would have been about 1966/67) because it was abandoned by my school district rather quickly.

Anonymous said...

I heard that a headmaster in a school near us got the sack for using some weird way of teaching kids how to spell, long after everyone else had decided it was stupid. That was in the 80s, and kids who went to that school blamed their poor spelling on it. I guess this was ITA.

Cynthia Brantley said...

Some children have no problem learning to read the standard alphabet. They don't need ITA.

For those who would have a hard time learning to read a standard alphabet, how are they expected to have an easier time with learning to read TWICE? How are they expected to transition?

I am SO grateful to my mother for having taught me to read in kindergarten, before I was subjected to ITA in first grade. Few of my classmates were so lucky, and became terrible spellers when they transitioned. For me, it was merely a huge waste of time and effort to learn something completely useless, and sometimes rather frustrating as I tried to decipher foreign-looking misspelled words. (Probably the same feeling anyone reading this article who did not grow up with ITA experienced with the example at top, except imagine you're six and just learned to read.)

Interesting theory, but in practice it just doesn't work.

Give children a little more credit for being able to learn to read the right way in the first place, and be patient with individual learning differences (one of the smartest young women I know didn't learn to read until she was almost 8). Be supportive and encouraging rather than critical, and make it fun. And never, never force them to learn garbage like this first so they have to un-learn and re-learn to be able to communicate with the rest of the world.

silvana said...

Who the hell had the right to use us as guinea pigs! How dare they teach us an alphabet that would only be used in one particular classroom setting. How dare they take young ESL students and totally disrupt the rest of their school career. In my own life it caused confusion, disappointment and ultimately a sense of failure. Did anyone think that the fundamentals of the English language would ultimately have to be taught to these children? Instead, they ruthlessly threw us into the regular English curriculum without any formal training. How was this suppose to help us read or for that matter further our future academic endeavors. When I look back to my youth and think of the hardship it caused in my life I become overcome with anger and regrets. The anger comes from the pain this program inflicted on me; the regret is the mourning of a future and career I could have had. I will never understand how this program was ever accepted by our schools. Shame on them all!

Anonymous said...

Mark Said...

in November of 1966 when I was in first grade, my family moved from NJ to CT. It was decided that June that I should repeat first grade, much like almost every other boy in my neighborhood. They retained me and I was placed in an ITA first grade. I had one year completed with the traditional alphabet and then converted to ITA alphabet and then in second grade I was converted back to the traditional alphabet.

This totally screwed me up. In more ways than I can elaborate on here.

I am now 47 years old. One of my stronger skill sets is writing, but I am not a reader and avoid reading at almost any cost. I can't spell to save my life. I went through College (3.6 GPA) and had horrific spelling errors on my papers. Almost every spelling error was with vowels.

I really wonder what would have happened if I just went on to second grade and didn't repeat first grade... It was a time of experimentation for education with new philosophies like “readiness” (A slotted year between kindergarten and first grade.), "primary units" and later "Open Classroom". I feel like many of us in elementary school in the 1960's were guinea pigs.

HannaLee said...

I went to a book sale today and found an A.A. Milne book written in ITA. I had never heard of this ridiculous method before. Teachers orginizations sure do like to experiment on kids, don't they? I bought the book for the novelty of it, but won't share it with my young children. They need to see English as it IS written.

Anonymous said...

I was an ITA student. Raised in Bethpage Schools, Long Island, NY. I was reading BEFORE I entered Kindergarten and was placed in the ITA classroom. I had to re-learn to read using a 40 letter alphabet where cake was spelled:K long A K
BIZARRE! My mom was glad I was in the ITA class and not my brother because she knew I was smart and that I'd survive. She "questioned" the principal about the program and was told that until she had a degree in education....she should not question the philosophies and that the professionals would handle it. WOW things have changed!!! I'm a teacher now in a prestigious LI Northshore school and also hold a Masters of Social Work degree. I am a great reader but can't spell to save my life. I've taught myself coping strategies and techniques but wonder why no one has done a PhD dissertation on this disaster. I would love to buy an old ITA book because people think I made this "alphabet" up!!

Anonymous said...

I can't believe my school was doing this in the '70s! I was in Kindergarten and 1st grade when this was being taught in the mid '70s and it hurt my spelling for the longest time. I'm happy to report that I've been able to spell correctly for many years...but I still remember being in 4th grade and spelling said "sed" over and over again and my mother trying to get me to stop doing that. Thank goodness my daughter didn't have to deal with anything so stupid.

Roo said...

I was taught ita and have the most wonderful memories of it. No problems in reading writing or spelling then or now. The change over was just a progression - bit like using lower case letters and then moving on to capitals really. This is just one way of teaching phonics and this is really no different to what is happening today just in a different form.

Dr Strange said...

I was taught to read and write using ita. Being dyslexic it was the worst possible thing that could have happened to me. To listen to people say it was just another system reminds me of teachers in the 60's and 70's (and possibly still do today) saying everyone else can do it why cant you. This is intolerable educational totalitarianism at its worst. They binned it; it’s in the trash and thank god. It was the most ill conceived educational tool ever and along side the mistakes of the British government with the 1988 ERA it will only be time that will bear out the heavy burden that ita put on the learners. There are still stupid mistakes going on today disguised as 'jolly phonics' and advanced phonics recognition programs. The fatal error of these schemes is to heavily rely on the interaction of the parent. No parent interaction... no success. Therefore a programs success depends entirely on parental involvement. This is great in a clinical research environment... but hello welcome to the real world! The children who will get on in life will always have an advantage by class or social position (See Basil Bernstien) so most of the harebrained schemes place little emphasis on turnkey solutions that can be executed solely in the classroom. In the case of ita it was foundation stage - reception through to year 2. It should have had a much longer trialling period before they (pedagogists and educationalists) got trigger itchy with the magic bullet of ita into the general population. The shocking thing about ita is that it exacerbates certain learning dysfunction but teachers were encouraged to continue to use it as a remedial way of teaching the 'slower' kids. What they were doing was delaying their entry into reading and writing society. Even more shocking was the fact that ita was phased out in the UK but continued in establishments where there was a need for remedial teaching. I was lucky because I taught myself to read real books before it became an issue but I was never able to make the transition in my handwriting from ita basic to standard cursive. As a result I have developed a mildly dyspraxic style. My 7 year old has better writing than me. I cannot write in front of another adult. It is still crippling after all these years. I just turned 45 recently and it ita is still dealing me a bum hand. That said, it never stopped me from getting three advanced degrees!

Dr Strange said...

Actually as an afterthought... I wonder what effect 'text speak' and IM language is going to have on future generations. It's possible that it will have a domino effect at sometime in the future.

darlene said...

darlene from toronto canada 46 yrs.old I to was tought in ita and always felt i was used as a ( ginni pig ita spelling) guinea pig. after 2 years of learning to spell in ita they put me in a classroom expecting me to know how to read and write... i was so lost. i started acting out in school... instead of relizing they scrood me up for the rest of my life... the teacher would send me down to the office with a piece of paper with a number one or a number two. and i'd be sent into a empty office room and set a timer for a half hour and just sit there with nothing...over the years i tought myself to read and write... with my pocket dictoinary by my side witch i am not using right now... so you can see how poor my spelling is. i have got by luckly my sister has a busness where i got myself a trade. but i still work my but off for penuts.where if i could have read and wrote better i know i could have done very well for myself. i went to a job fare a year ago first time i had to fill out a application i got all panicy and just made a total mess of it becouse i couldn't use my dictionary. i was so embarist... see i know thats not the proper spelling...this is the way it is and it is awful, humiliating and emberessing. and no i didnt get the job... who's going to hire someone who cant spell...no one. some one should pay for this... this ita has ruind a lot of lives and someone sould pay... one time i had to be a wittness in court and had to write a statment. in front of a packed court room the judge pointed me right out of the crowd and said he could barly read my statment and told me to go back to school... i almost cried...hope you can read thisas you can see i didnt use my dictionary just so you can see how bad my spelling is... i wish i could sue some body becouse this ita has ruined me along with many many other people.... thx for letting me vent.

Anonymous said...

They tried to teach me ITA at school in the West Midlands during the 1960's. But there was a great many fuel strikes and i had to go to work with my mom. I was taught to read properly in the normal alphabet by her work mates. They were fantastic.But when i went back to school i was beaten by the teacher for being cheeky when i refused to read in ITA. In actual fact the alphabet made no sense to me at all. I was too frightened to go to school, and eventually my mother persuaded them to give me normal books to read. She remembers that the teachers made her feel ignorant for not accepting ITA as the perfect system for learning to read. But those teachers only taught me to hate school at an early age. I eventually got good degree in Philosophy and literature, and a healthy suspicion of so called Educationalists, there methods, and their motives.

Anonymous said...

In 1975 I was hired as a first grade teacher in Harford County, Maryland primarily because I had knowledge of i.t.a. The summer before I was hired, I traveled to England and volunteered in a British Primary School in East Horsley. Now, thirty three years later, and still teaching, I admit that i.t.a. taught me what I needed to understand in order to teach decoding, or phonics to my students. Although the school where I started my teaching career abandoned the program due to political dissent, I still hold i.t.a. in high regard.

Anonymous said...

I went to school in Missouri in the 70's. I was taught to read through the I.T.A. system. I don't remember having any problems transitioning from I.T.A. to "Regular" reading and writing. I consider myself a strong reader and a decent speller.

I have also taught in both public and private school settings and know that the some Special Education teachers allow their students to use "Inventive Spelling". Essentially it is spelling a word as it sounds. Their theory is "as long as they get the meaning across it doesn't really matter how close to correct the word is spelled".
I too have wondered how the use of IM language will affect the spelling of the next generation. When I was teaching, if a student would send me an email (our students had their own computers) in IM I would return it to them and have them re-write it using correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

Rosemary said...

As I was born in 1964 it must have been 1969-1971 when I was first taught to read ITA in an Elementary School located in Los Angeles. My memories are of breezing through a progression of sequentially numbered books and being disappointed when I reached the end as additional ITA books were not available for reading.
While yes, we may have been "guinea pigs" for this unorthodox style of teaching, it has always been my thought that perhaps my strong spelling and writing skills were a result of being taught ITA so early in life. This is just one perspective to consider.

Ianwright40 said...

I would like to say thanks for this article.


As someone already stated I was starting to think I had imagined this.... I could read very well before starting school in the UK 1965. I did not do well. I was not allowed to progress for a year because I could not get to grips with this system. Not only that but confidence was battered because I was singled out as the fool who couldn't read. I remember to this day Mrs Wells the teacher and mother of my school pal thought I was some kind or idiot. My parents tried to get them to let me read regular books but the 'SYSTEM' could not allow that.

I am now going to search for the AA Milne book that was mentioned. Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

I was taught ita at infant school in Stoke-on-Trent during the 1960s and what a fantastic early reader I became! However,when I moved to a new school I suddenly discovered correct spelling. A huge effort and several years later my spelling did improve but practice and practise still get me.

ITA stinks! said...

I hold the school system of
Columbus Ohio (Cranbrook Elementary
School) at fault. I was taught
to read with ITA, in the first and
second grade. After 2 years of
fluent reading...the powers that
be....decided to discontinue the
program!!! They took the students
and tossed us into regular reading classes!!!! Sink or Swim,
must have been the attitude. I was
then labeled as slow... teachers
requested that I be tested for
learning difficulties, sent to
the eye doctors. I lived with
LABELS..........over being slow,
and I AM NOT!!!!!

I feel that the Columbus, Ohio
School System...should be held
at fault....I wonder how many of
us....suffered with "LABELS" of
not knowing how to read??? My
memories of school suffered greatly.

How many "ov" us have suffered???

Thank GOD....I finally have discovered that I really don't
have a reading problem!!!!

Cranbrook Elementary School
years 1966-1969...Mssz. Barr'z
1 and 2 graded.

ITA stinks! said...

Here'e a THESIS idea for some
PHD want-a-be.......do a
study and write a paper on
the numbers of people that

ITA screwed up!!!!!!

ITA stinks! said...

Sorry, for my anger on the above
posting......I am grateful for
having the oppertunity to vent
on this site....but,as a bi-product
of the ITA experiment......I am
very bitter.

Sincerely though...I wish someone
would do a study..on how many
people have been damaged by the
ITA experiment.

Anonymous said...

I was taught ita in kindergarten through first grade (1971-1973 timeframe) in the Fox school district in suburban St. Louis. It was fantastic. My mom would take us to the St. Louis county library where I would check out as many ita books as possible. I was reading everything I could get my hands on!

Transitioning to regular spelling was not difficult at all and I believe that ita is one of the reasons I was such an avid reader growing up. I do remember it being very controversial at the time and some of my friends' parents pulled them from public schools so that they could learn to read the "normal" way. Those kids unfortunately ended up well behind most of us who were taught with ita.

I personally think it is a shame that this method is not taught any more. I might try to find some old ita books to teach my 19 month old son to read when he's ready.

Rocco NJ said...

Folks please don't blame ITA for your emotional problems. It was simply some well meaning educators trying to improve the way children learn a very difficult language. In retrospect, it was probably not a good choice, but 35 year old hind sight is greater than 20-20.I know a lot of succesful people (from kindergarten class of 73'Hazlet NJ) that did just fine.
P.S. I purposely did not run my comment through spell checker to give the synics some fuel :)

Rocco

chris said...

I was never so glad to hear a co worker from then Syracuse Ny was also a ita student. I was also a ita student in Penn Yan, ny in the 70s. I hate to read cant spell was not a good student on paper but was always told a A student verbally, I am now learning from this blog im not alone THANK GOD this program totally screwed me up also, and some people think im crazy when I blame my 1`st grade experience on my lack of spelling skills. Thank you this helps me feel much better....

Steve said...

Thank you ITA Stinks for your post. I consider myself an ITA victim and your story is very similar to mine. I was at school in the north of England in the early 70s and was very good at ITA in junior school. All this was at a time when Britain was going metric- all words outside school were wierd and all measurements were still in imperial so i couldn't understand those either. I then moved on to secondry school and somehow missed "the transition" resulting in me struggling with spelling. This affected me in many ways- having to pick easy spell words, concentrating on the sciences and lacking in confidence where writing is involved. I recon that given the transition I might have done better but think learning once and correctly would have been easier. Chris- me too- finding a co-worker who has been subjected to ITA was like finding a long lost sister. We talked and talked like we were both survivors of a major calamity and compared stories. So glad i found this site and other like minded people. To those that kame out of it well- congratulations, you were luky, lucky, whatever.

kathi stribling said...

I learned to read using ITA in Fairview Park, Ohio during the mid-60's. I loved it and all of us in that class remained in the high reading groups. I am actually doing a graduate research project on ITA and am most interested in the comments. thanks for the forum

Anonymous said...

When I went to primary school they made me do ITA, despite the fact that I could already read and write (age 4). I was told off for spelling correctly and made to rewrite into ITA. I ended up in a reading group with children older than me reading the same book but I had to have the ITA version. Because they were two years older they had the normal version that they struggled with - I could read both! It took me years to learn how to spell and when I'm tired I can't figure out words at all. What utter nonsense!

Anonymous said...

I'm 47 years old female certified ESL teacher in New York.
I remember ITA well. I was in the first grade in a suburban town on Long Island in the 1970s. My district used ITA. I can't recall why I remember the letters 'ITA' from first grade but I do.
I remember Miss Novak; yes I remember her name, she'd be so nice with 100s on my spelling papers. But in 2nd grade everything changed for the WORSE. I spelled everything WRONG.
I dreaded spelling. Each week I'd fail; no one bothered to teach me how to study--my parents felt it was the school's responsibility to teach me not them!!!
I spent 2nd grade through 12th grade career writing my misspelled words 10x each!!! 100 word unit tests were awful! I remember weekends weeping as I wrote all the wrong words 10X each.
As an adult and certified teacher in public schools I chose to homeschooled my children because I saw 'inventive spelling' by k-2 teachers in the Albany, NY area in great districts. My kids were not going through what I did.
I used Ramond Spalding's Writing Road to Reading to teach the phonemic sound/symbol system to my children. My husband noticed that my spelling improved over 80% when I was done homeschooling my 2 oldest children.
I still rely heavily on a spell checker and go nowhere without my dictionary. I've always told children, "God made the dictionary for me." and taught them how to use one.
I teach to save children the pain and shame of trying to figure out English on their own.

Signed L.: hater of ITA
PS last year one of my first grade ESL students wanted to use the word 'delicious' in a sentence---impressive for a first grader!
Because it was NYSESLAT test prep time I told her to try her best; she wrote, "It was delishits." I laughed to my self and told her that she was trying to spell a 4th grade word; bu she was sad because she knew it was wrong. By the time I was done telling her she was trying a 4th grade word and that she'd lose 0 points she smiled because she used a 'big word'.

Anonymous said...

What a disaster. I was taught ita in infant school in the mid 1960's in a town north of London. I learnt how to spell and read very quickly which of course was great. However when I reached junior school that taught main stream English, panic! The teachers realised how far behind we all were in 'English' and so concentrated on getting us up to speed. So maths and all other classes were not as important. Can you imagine what it was like by the time we got to secondary school? Times tables, basic maths I had no idea. To this day my confidence in maths is zero, I use spell check ALOT. I know a number of students in my class did well and good on them but for me!!

Anonymous said...

Nice to know I'm not alone. Begining to wonder if i had imagined the whole thing.
I was taught ita in the U.K during the early 1970'S. I thought it was only a U.K trial. So it seems our American cousins where subjected to the same dubious experiment.
As a result my spelling through out my school life left me stuggling. On a personal levle I found the transition to "normal" spelling confusing. It took many years to re-learn. I had lost my confidence. By the time i realised i wasn't actually slow or even a bit stupid. (during my 20'S) it was too late.
Would love to know where I can buy some of the old sally and paul books, so my son can have a good laugh. Rom.

jackie said...

Hi Yes I was one of the pupils in this trial, I could all ready read and write before starting this trial,but have since stugled all my life with spelling - I feel the this trial totally robbed me of reaching my true achademic achievment ( sorry for any spelling mistakes ) Jackie

Pam said...

Thank you for this article! I had thought I was crazy because I had memories of learning ITA in first grade, but no one else seemed to be able to recall it! I learned this system in Connecticut during the 1975-76 school year. I can still see the "alphabet" cards wrapped around the top of the classroom - aengel, eegle, etc. I had already learned how to read before I learned this system, and I do recall wondering why I had to relearn this new alphabet, but I also remember thinking it was fun. Perhaps I thought it was a game? Anyway, I was also an excellent reader and speller then and now, and so this system had no ill effects on me. I even went to a top journalist school and became an editor. I agree it was a strange system, but I have feelings of nostalgia for it, and would love to see some of the old ITA books. I do remember that my friend who went to first grade the next year learned the TO system, and so I think the school district must have scrapped it.

Betty said...

I was taught ita in school when I was 6 years old. I have an extensive vocabulary and I was always a very adept reader in school. I was usually well above my class in reading levels BUT I cannot spell to save myself! THANK GOD FOR SPELL CHECK!
In a college Psychology class, we learned about the way the brains learns and people make an subconscious, permanent connection to the first things they learn and it is a struggle and often times impossible to change that. (IE superstitions and the flat Earth) This is how it is with me and ita. Granted, my school dropped the program before I completed it but no matter how hard I studied I could not get past spelling phonetically. My dad made flash cards and I studied so hard. But I couldn't do it. It is my foundation to spelling. I have met other people who are terrible spellers and they all took ita as well and most of them did finish the program and are still messed up.
When are educators going to just teach a thing the way it is and stop trying to come up with the next "easy" way out? Just do the work! And stop messing people up!

Anonymous said...

I and my older siblings were all taught i.t.a , and I have to say we all think it helped rather than hindered us. We all quickly moved onto "t.o" without any difficulty. I am in fact trying to track down reading books written in i.t.a but cannot find any anywhere!

Anonymous said...

I learned to read at an early age then I entered Kindergarten and learned the ITA system I moved to another state midway though fourth grade. Spelling has always been a problem and I think created a type of dyslexia that I would not have had other wise. I still have to stop and think about what vowel to use. I am now completing a degree in teaching and I feel this was a disservice to students. I think there particular spelling errors which ITA creates or and er for example or the ae for the long /a/ sound creating a difficulty knowing when to use what vowel to spell the /a/ sound. there are a number but those of us who have had this will already know what i mean.

Anonymous said...

I was in an ita 1st grade class in 1967 in Pearl River, NY. Mrs. Mott was my teacher. I loved her, and I loved ita and transitioned without any problems. I was put into the class because I was already reading by the time I started kindergarten. I remember there were two large boxes that held laminated cards with stories and questions on them. Students were expected to read through one box by the end of the school year, but the hope was they would get through both by the end of the year. I finished both boxes by December and was given "enrichment" instruction with a student teacher for the remainder of the year. I do remember feeling that I was being punished for going too fast. Today I am a college English professor at a prestigious private college in upstate NY. I am an excellent speller, have written two books and numerous articles, and am starting a third book. From the comments I have read so far, though, it seems I was an exception to most students' experiences. One of the main issues I have with the supposed educational innovations from my era is that we weren't taught to memorize. My grandfather could still recite "Kubla Khan" at 85. I was never expected to memorize (in fact it was discouraged) until I was in college. I remember attending a poetry reading with one of my professors, and on the way back she began reciting a poem. When I told her I was impressed, she responded by saying, "I don't know how anyone can truly understand a poem if he or she hasn't memorized it." *gulp* That's when I began making a concerted effort to memorize at least shorter poems, but I still struggle with it.

Anonymous said...

Oh, by the way, some people will never, ever spell correctly no matter what system they learn to read and spell with. My father was brilliant, but he couldn't spell using Standard English if his life depended on it. If people can't spell, don't blame teachers. It isn't easier to teach students using a new system; it's infinitely more difficult. Even though ita may not have been the best approach, teachers shouldn't be blamed. Rather, they should be lauded for trying to find innovative ways to help students learn to read. If you can't spell correctly, you more than likely would not spell correctly if you had learned the traditional way either. It doesn't mean you are stupid. Often, people who can't spell well are extremely bright. Part of the problem with public school education is that students are treated as if they all learn the same way, which is the way that teachers learned. Teachers are teachers because they were successful students, which means they learned a particular way and thus replicate that learning style when they teach. Some of my most brilliant students have what are called "learning disabilities"; however, I believe the disability lies with public education and the inability to teach students based on their own personal learning style. If Republicans continue to have their way in the House (along with Republican governors across the country), public education will be worse than ever. But, fear not, the wealthiest 2 percent of the nation's populace will continue to receive tax breaks. Eventually we'll be a country of stupid, old, sick people--no funding for education, no health care, and voucher programs for the elderly. I'm sure Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, and Michelle Bachmann will be proud of their accomplishments, especially since they are all millionaires.

Anonymous said...

have enjoyed reading all these comments, as i too was taught to read using the ita method in the mid 70's. i am an avid reader and have been from an early age (before starting school dad took me to the library where they had ita books) and while not excellent, i'm not a bad speller. i don't remember encountering any problems with this method, but at such a young age i suppose i just did as i was told!

Anonymous said...

I was taught to read with the ITA program in the 1967-68 school year and I was always a good speller as well as a good reader.

Anonymous said...

I am convinced that my problems with spelling were generated by being taught ita as an infant. Ican read revy fast but often this fatigues me over long periods. My spelling however is often confused and when I can't think of a word's spelling I always try to imagine the spelling as it sounds, invariable causing a wrong spelling or my use of some kind of spell checking.

Anonymous said...

I learned ITA in a progressive school that I loved. I excelled at reading and wolfed down any books my library had available in ITA. As Mum taught at that school we also had a quite a lot of books at home which I have now inherited.

It's funny how hard it is to read them now!

I didn't make the transition very well but don't blame ITA at all. It was combined with a move to a very different and old fashioned school that included the use of rulered knuckles as a training device. My memories of ITA are rather fond and I treasure my trove of books.

Anonymous said...

I too share the anger of being taught ita. After stuggling through highschool, college and graduate degree, I finally learned to spell. To the responder who is studying this, you might be intereseted to know that I struggle with small words more than longer ones.

To the blogger-- really? no spell check? thats just mean!

Anonymous said...

I was taught the ita system at Elmwood Elementary school in Garfield Heights, Ohio between 1969 & 1971, and I, like many others it seems, sort of blocked it out of my memory, as I was unable to find anyone who was aware of it. I am currently a 48-year-old high school English teacher with strong reading, writing, and spelling skills, so I cannot say that this strategy had any ill effects on me. I honestly do not remember any major difficulties in transitioning to standard English, and I was always very proficient during spelling bees and writing contests in my youth. How much was me and how much the result of ita--who can tell?

pninush said...

I am Danish but grew up in South Africa and learnt to read and write in the first 2 years of my school. I spell better than many and am considered a bookworm as I always have a book with me. In Israel (Hebrew) there is a similair system to this day which is also taught to the children when they start reading. Just a thought :)

Boo said...

Interesting comments. I was the sole English learner, age 5 - 6 in a class of ITA learners in the early '70s. (I could read and write English before starting school so was allowed to continue)
All I saw it do was cause problems. Kids couldn't read anything at home, only their school books. What a narrow field of reading material! These arrogant educationalists must have really underestimated parents if they assumed all learning is done via school!!
Bright kids who progressed quickly onto English became universally poor spellers which didn't help their confidence, and the slower kids who were 'still on ITA' as eight year olds had such a stigma to bear.
I'm amazed people are seriously considering bringing ITA back into use. They can't ever have been subjected to it!

Anonymous said...

I know this is old but I still wanted to add to it. I was part of the original experimental group of kids taught ita in 1963/64. One class in the year group was taught ita and the other traditional spelling. From what I was told there were six schools in the country who took part in this experiment. I used ita for two and a half years and then on moving up to the junior school was put into a class of kids who had been through both systems. We ita kids were told to forget what we had been taught about spelling as it was for the babies and now we were big children we must read and write properly. That as far as I can remember was our "transition". After two years of failing to catch up with my traditionally taught class mates my mother pulled me out of the state system and although there was not much money in our household ( we went without heating for two years) put me into a private school. Unfortunately by this time the damage had been done and even though everyone tried their best to help me I failed the 11 plus exam despite my higher than average IQ. To this day I struggle with spelling, which I might add was much improved when I started teaching my children phonics after realising their school was using "see and say". I avoid writing letters or filling in forms for fear of making fool of myself. I often wonder how different my life would have been if I had been put on the left hand list of five year olds instead of the right.. Let's hope that people who are responsible for education have learnt from the lessons of using short cuts to teaching English. IT'S DIFFICULT, GET OVER IT. Our kids need to learn it so let's do it right!

shelly said...

I was taught to read by the ITA method in 1966-68 in Fremont Ohio. I am an excellent reader with a high comprehension rate and had no trouble transitioning to regular reading. I also can not spell to save my soul..lol. I would love to see some old books with this kind of print...I'm 51 and remember quite a bit of it...enough for my kids and grandkids to to shake their heads at and say "SERIOUSLY??? You must be really smart!" LOL

Sheryl said...

I loved my first grade teacher, and loved school. Our class was the only one that was taught ita, and we all knew that when we went to second grade we'd learn 'the other way' so it was no big deal. This was in Poughkeepsie, NY in the mid-sixties. The ita had dinosaurs, and I thought the whole thing was pretty cool.

Jim M said...

I too learned the ITA in the mid 60's and consequently am a terrible speller. I wrote about the ITA in my own blog.

..Just Visiting...

I hope people enjoy it.

Sheri said...

I went to school in Miami, FL and was taught i.t.a. from 1971 through 1976. I remember reading quickly, but when we moved across the state, to the Tampa Bay area, my parents were told that I was reading below grade level. I took remedial reading in the 6th grade and never again. I love to read and I am a spelling/grammar nazi. I have very fond memories of i.t.a., I just don't believe I transitioned well. My sister, on the other hand, did. We both did very well in both high school and college and are avid readers.

Anonymous said...

I had already learned English by the age of five when we moved and, at a new school, I was put in Mrs Lovett's class. She tried to teach me ITA but I was having none of this weird danish nonsense and I ended up being kept back a year. That basically meant that I was one of the smartest (oldest) kids in my class after they gave up on ITA. I was not aware of any setback at the time so imagine how my sense of superiority exploded when I was later put forward a year as I got older. I thought I was some kind of genius. I'd love to get hold of some of those books now.

Anonymous said...

ouch! i was also taught the ITA way.And lord,did it mess me up even further.I was already slow,and ITA slowed me down even more.I can clearly remember the teacher getting very cross with me ,because it made me very confused.I didn't realise the "experiment" stopped in 1964,I was taught ITA in about 1966.

Steve said...

Well, I lived in Buffalo,NY when I was young in the 60's. We were taught ita in the 1st and 2nd grade. I remember sitting in class in a circle with my classmates, going through those sequentially numbered books (up through about 29 or 30 I think). I also remember that we were separated into about 4 different reading groups - classified by how well we were doing I think. The program may have helped me read/comprehend better (jury is still out though), but I could not spell worth a darn up until I finally put in the effort to "relearn" how to spell while in college (note: I just had trouble spelling the word "college" lol). Well, I graduated cum laude in mathmatical economics and have a very nice career in IT now, but I cannot help thinking how ita kind of ruined my upper grade school and high school academics, as I never had any desire to read anything during that period (I never read one single English book through all of high school - and I sincerely regret not doing so now). I attribute my lack of desire to read during this time period and my poor spelling to ita. I think C.S Lewis said it best, though:

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. - C. S. Lewis, English essayist & juvenile novelist (1898 - 1963)

Anonymous said...

I came across this, just Googling 'ITA'.

My sister and I learned it at infants school back in the 60s. We then moved to a new area, before my sister had been taught the transition to 'correct' spelling. She's suffered from a fear of reading and spelling for the rest of her life, although anybody speaking to her would immediately recognise that she's very bright.

Bad idea, IMO. As somebody said higher up the thread, why not just learn to do it right in the first place?

tracy said...

I was well able to read and write in English but moved schools when I was 7 and forced to learn ita. As a result it took me until about 17 and working before I really got to grips with correct spelling which I could easily do at the age of 7 ! It completely messed up my life for a good 10 years. Why would a school force you to learn a new way of reading when you've already mastered the right way !

jsmith1998@hotmail.com said...

I was taught ita in Highland NY in the 1960's. It was a terrible plan that to this day seriously impedes my spelling skills relative to those who learned conventional spelling in the elementary grades. It did not seem too effect my ability to read thanks in part to my parents providing a large quantity of standard reading materials and the fact that when my mother realized what was happening she pulled me from the program as quickly as she could. I would strongly advise against any attempt to resurrect this horrific dinosaur of a teaching experiment.

Paul Lovatt said...

Try my new facebook page at:
https://www.facebook.com/InitialTeachingAlphabet
If you do read them and enjoy them please leave some comments.

Paul Lovatt said...

I have created a page at https://www.facebook.com/InitialTeachingAlphabet for those wishing to reminisce. If you read any of the stories and enjoy them please leave comments.

Peter Sobocki said...

I was a victim of the ITA experiment. Borne in 1960, I attended Pheasey Infant school near Birmingham. I learned to read o.k. with the system, but like many people who's families moved homes, I ended up in a new school that did not use the system. After two years of reading and writing I.T.A. I found my self Illiterate. I missed out on the structured transition to 'Traditional Orthography' The schools solution was to send me to a remedial class for two hours a day, to be tutored by a retired teacher who came in for a few hours to help a small group of about 4 children with learning difficulties. I became stigmatized by this, separated from my peers and missing other important lessons as a result. I feel it put me back about a year educationally and continued to effect me well into my secondary education. I was "down streamed" for nearly 2 and half years until my new head of house realised my abilities and pressured the school to re grade me. It cost me the opportunity to study languages at school and I still feel bitter about the whole experience.

At the end of the day, I have done all right... an I.T. Analyst for 30 years and a good one I hope. There are traits however, as I hear from other I.T.A. veterans, my spelling leaves much to be desired. I often find myself inexplicably typing 'ov' for 'of' ( I.T.A.)

Al Pearson said...

I learned to read and write in a Primary School in Leeds using the ITA system. Even today at 47 years old my spelling from memory is not great. All through my adult life I have tried to shake the burden of this appalling method and hugely condemn the clown that thought of it. From reading the tread I see many share my view. I actually learned to read and write Arabic easier than my own language in a 6 month intensive course. Any clown who wants to subject children to this in the future should have their tongue and fingers removed to prevent any passage of opinions.

James Sweatt said...

born in 1960, i waz part uv the ita eksperiment in the u.s. i am a good speler, maebee in spiet uv ita. i cant fiend the anser uv how menee peepl in the u.s. lernd ita.