George Lucas Educational Foundation

Initial Teaching Alphabet: Any Other Veterans Out There?

Initial Teaching Alphabet: Any Other Veterans Out There?

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When I was in first grade in the mid-1960s, I learned how to read by way of a phonetic alphabet called the Initial Teaching Alphabet (ITA). In second grade, my class was transitioned back to the conventional Roman alphabet, which ITA pedagogy called TO (Traditional Orthography). As I child I was led to believe ITA was a noble and future-forward experiment that would give me a significant head start on language skills, which it may or may not have done -- perhaps my better-than-average language skills would have developed just as well under other circumstances. The school district abandoned this early literacy program after two years, and I recently learned from Abe Feinberg's book Every Child Left Behind that the '60s was a decade notorious for expensive, ineffectual experiments in education. However, the ITA Foundation still existed as of 2009, when they last updated their website. My question to the Edutopia community: did anyone else experience ITA, and if you did, was it an advantage, a disadvantage or of no consequence at all to your early elementary education?

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Paul Lovatt's picture

Hi, veteran here. I'm building a collection of ITA books and links. I have scanned some of them and published them on facebook at if you're interested. More to come I hope. I encountered ITA as a six-year old and already fluent reader of traditional English (T.O.) in the early seventies when I moved to a new school in Hertfordshire, England. According to my parents it messed with my head and I ended up being kept back a year. All I remember was encountering some kind of Danish language. The result turned out OK as when I caught up, or they realised I could actually read proper English, they moved me back up again and it made me feel super confident.

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