A Personal Memory

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As a child in grade school I was included in once by chance and once by choice in test programs. I had thought about these programs several times and decided to do a little research into one in particular. I googled “phonetics ita to” to see what I could find. In 1965-1966 my school district took part in an experimental program for teaching children to read. In those days children went to kindergarten to learn social skills and be prepared for the next year’s class that would last for an entire day.


I can remember walking into the classroom on the day the ita alphabet went up on the wall above the chalkboard stretching the length of the wall. Some of the letters looked like the familiar alphabet, but many did not. Vowels in many cases were made up of two “normal” letters linked together.


The idea was to teach children how to read by the way words sounded, not the “correct” way they were spelled. The children’s books that I would read that year looked a lot like some foreign language. The statement “a day at home” would look more like a “dae at hoem.” The effect on me of this teaching method was that I would devoir books, reading everything placed in front of me, even to this day. It taught me how to sound out words in both ita and the conventional spelling method I would learn later. The negative effect would be that I always need to think twice when spelling, not as much now as when I was in grade school, but it may have had some impact on me over time.


If you google the ita association you will get back everything from the International Trombone Association to International Titanium Association. Ita would originate in the BBC in 1953 by James Pitman to help children learn how to read in a more “logical” format. The argument being that the English spelling format is halfway between the alphabetic systems of Spanish and picture-writing of Chinese. ITA was tested in a handful of schools in England during the early 1960s with mixed success for the children involved.  It largely fell into disuse although James Pitman had some success in persuading schools in the USA and Australia to try out the system.


People in the BBC were still talking about the teaching method in 2001. The article also shows the ita characters and gives background information on it’s use.


The second test program I was put through was an advanced math class that I took once a week. They tried to keep from scaring the life out of the 5th graders in front of them after they had been trooped into the cafeteria and directed into chairs by telling us there wouldn’t be grades or tests. They then started explaining geometry problems to us that I wouldn’t see again until high school. Strangely enough, my brain did register the information, I found it easier to grasp when I saw them once again years later.


I do wonder what ever became of the stats gathered from my guinea pig youth and how I stacked up against the other kids I took those classes with.


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