Emergent Literacy Design: Flap Your Wings with Z!

Ms. Carly Ellis Emergent Literacy Design 06/21/10

*Targeted Phoneme: uz=/z/. Represented by the letter Z. The letter Z looks like bumblebee wings turned sideways.

*Picture of Phoneme: Dark Honey Bee The Great Sunflower Project (Hemberger, Ron 2008)

*Tongue Tickler: Zack zips zany sippers.

*Rationale: This lesson will help emergent readers identify /z/, the phoneme represented by the letter Z. Students will learn to recognize /z/ in spoken words by using a meaningful representation (flapping their wings because Z resembles the wings of a bee) and the letter symbol Z. Also, students will be able to find /z/ in words and the application of phonemic awareness with /z/ in phonetic cue reading by picking it out in rhyming words.

Materials: Primary Paper, pencils, a paper with the tongue tickler: “Zach zips zany sippers.”, drawing paper, colored pencils,  Dr. Seuss’s A, B, C Book, cue cards and check sheet with the words ZIP, ZAP, ZAINY, ZEBRA, ZIPPER; and an assessment worksheet where students practice spelling words with /z/.


1.) Say: It turns out that the English language is a code… We need to break this code! In order to do this, we need to find out what every letter sounds like. When we say the sound of each letter, our mouth makes certain movements. For instance, watch how my mouth moves when I say /z/ which is represented by the letter Z. Z looks like the wings of a bumblebee. /z/ sounds like the noise bees make when they fly.

2.) Today, we are going to live life through the eyes of a bumblebee (/z/, /z/, /z/). Watch what my mouth does when I say /z/. My teeth come close together (point to teeth). My lips are slightly apart (point to lips). My tongue sits right behind my teeth and a humming sound comes out (point to throat) and it seems that no air comes out. Now, close your eyes, I want you to say /z/, but I want you to flap your wings like a bumblebee.

3.) Now, I will show you how to find /z/ in the words zig and zag (together, zigzag). I will stretch out /z/ and I want you to listen for my bumblebee wings. We will try it once with our eyes open and once with them closed. Each time you hear /z/, I want you to flap your wings like a bumblebee.

4.) Great! Open your eyes. Now, we’re going to try a tongue tickler. “Zack zips zany zippers. We will say it five times together. Great! Let’s say it once more and stretch out the letter Z sound. Let’s say it just once more… This time, let’s close our eyes. Each time you say /z/, I want you to flap your wings. Imagine you are flying and watching Zach zip his zipper. Open your eyes, let’s say it and break off the sound from the words (Zzz-ack zzz-ips zzz-any zzz-ippers.)

5.) [Take out primary paper and pencils] Students will first write the capital letter Z in the top left-hand corner next to their name. Now, go up to the rooftop and make seven. Next, bring it back. I will tell the students to go to the next line and write a lowercase z. Go to the middle of the fence, write a seven and bring it back. After I look at each Z, I will give out bumblebee stickers and the students will wrote four more lowercase zs.  

6.) [As a class] Do you hear /z/ in sit or zit? Zap or cap? [Call-outs] Do you hear /z/ in Pot or zit? Zap or sap? I want to see if you can find /z/. Flap your wings each time you hear it.

7.) Now, let’s look at how Dr. Seuss uses /z/ in his book, The ABC Book. Let’s look at the last page (the letter Z). I will ask the students to come up with as many funny words that have /z/ in them within 20 seconds. Next, they will make up a funny name for either a flower or a bumblebee. They will draw their funny creature on their Z paper.

8.) I will show ZAP. I will model how I know it is ZAP and not CAP. The Z tells me to flap my “wings” like a bumblebee. It tells me to make the /z/ sound. After this, I will hold up the other words one at a time… Is this ZIP or CLIP? ZAP or MAP? ZAINY or BRAINY? ZEBRA or LIBRA? CLIPPER or ZIPPER?

9.) For my assessment, I will pass out my worksheet. On this worksheet, I have a series of pictures representing /z/. Students will have to figure out broken word and whole word combinations based on the pictures. If students have time, they can color the pictures.

10.) In closing, we will review picking out /z/ in out tongue tickler. We will try and say it ten times fast (just for fun)!


Byrne, B., & Fielding-Barnsley, R. (1990). Acquiring the alphabetic principle: A case for teaching recognition of phoneme identity. Journal of Educational Psychology, 82, 805-812.

Geisel, Theodore. (1996). Dr. Seuss’s ABC: An Amazing Alphabet Book!. Random House Children’s Books: New York, NY.

Murray, Bruce. Brush Your Teeth with F. Emergent Literacy Phonemic Lesson Plan.


Assessment Worksheet Idea taken from: http://www.kidzone.ws/kindergarten/f-begins2.htm




Instructions: Put a check by the picture if it begins with the letter Z.

Example: I would put a check by Big Zerobecause “zero” starts with Z.


1.) Zebra

2.)  Big Zipper



3.) Sunshine

4.) Big Pink Flower

Return to Caravans Site. 

Example Cue Cards:

1.)    ZAP

2.)    ZIP

3.)    ZAINY

4.)    ZEBRA

5.)    CLIPPER


Check Sheet:

1.) Is this ZAP ___ or MAP ___? (Vote)

2.) Is this CLIP ___ or ZIP ___? (Vote)

3.) Is this ZAINY ___ or BRAINY ___? (Vote)

4.) Is this ZEBRA ___ or LIBRA ___? (Vote)

5.) Is this ZIPPER ___ or CLIPPER ___? (Vote