Zipping Through the Zoo

Bembry Smith

Emergent Literacy


Rationale: Letter recognition is vital to the success of emergent readers. It is important for children to learn to recognize letters in print and to associate them with their corresponding sounds. Through this lesson, children will be able to recognize the letter Z and its phoneme /z/ by learning a meaningful representation (zipping a zipper). They will learn to write both upper and lower case Z as well as identify it in spoken and written text.


Materials: primary paper and pencil; alphabet chart; poster with “The zebra zipped zig-zag in the zoo”; crayons and drawing paper; Dr. Suess’s ABC; word flashcards (zero, zebra, house, car, zap, apple, zucchini, animal); assessment worksheet identifying pictures with /z/ (URL below).



1.We will begin the lesson by reviewing the previous, most recent letters taught, T- Y. Ask students to tell you the grapheme and phoneme for each letter using an alphabet chart. Also, have students tell you a word that starts with each letter.


2.Next, introduce the new letter, Z, by writing it on the board. Say: Today we are going to learn a new letter, Z. Z says /z/ like in the word zoo or zebra. The phoneme /z/ sounds like a zipper does when you zip up your coat. Z looks like a zig-zag and /z/ sounds like zipping a zipper.


3.Lets practice zipping up a zipper, /z/ /z/ /z/. [Pretend to zip up a zipper] Can you notice what your mouth is doing when you say /z/? The tip of your tongue is touching above your top teeth. Can you feel that when you say /z/ /z/ /z/? Every time you hear /z/ in a word lets pretend to zip up our zipper.


4.I’m going to show you how to find /z/ in the word buzz. I’m going to stretch buzz out in super slow motion and listen for the zipper. Bbb-u-u-zz. Slower. Bbb-u-u-u-zzzz. I felt it! I felt my tongue touch right above my top teeth. I can feel the zipper in buzz. Have some examples of Z words and also non Z words, ask children to identify the words with the /z/ sounds. “Do you hear /z/ in zoom or creep? Button or zip?



5.Now lets try a tongue twister [on poster]. “The zebra zipped zig-zag in the zoo.” I will say it once and then have the students say it 3 times together. Now we will say it again and stretch the /z/ at the beginning of the words. “The zzzebra zzzipped zzzig-zzzag in the zzzoo.” Try it again and this time lets break the Z off the word; “The /z/ebra  /z/ipped /z/ig-/z/ag in the /z/oo.”


6.[Hand out primary paper and pencil to each student.] Now that we know how to the say the letter Z, we are going to learn how to write it correctly in upper case and lower case form. First we will practice the upper case Z. I will model on the board how to make the upper case Z. Explain that you zig across the rooftop, zag all the way down to the sidewalk, and then zig back to the right. Ask the students to repeat this saying as you write another Z on the board. Have them practice writing a Z on their own. I want to see everyone’s Z! After I put a sticker on it, I want you to make nine more just like it. Now we are going to practice writing the lower case z. On a lower case z you do the same zig zag motion but instead of starting at the rooftop you start at the fence. Model this for the students and then have them practice on their own. I want to see your lower case z! I’ll put a sticker on it, and then I want you to make nine more just like it.



7.Call on students to answer and tell how they knew: Do you hear /z/ in zoom or toe? Zebra or pig? Zest or lemon? Fuzz or toad? Say: Let’s see if you can spot the mouth move /z/ in some words. Zip up your zipper if you hear /z/: The, crazy, buzzing, bee, zig, zagged, to, the, zany, zoo.


8. Say: Let’s look at the alphabet book. Dr Suess tells us about a funny creature whose name starts with the letter Z. Read page 26, drawing out the /z/. Activity: Ask the students to make up a silly creature name like Zizzer-Zazzer-Zuzz. Then have each student write a sentence with their creature’s name that says “At the zoo I saw a…” using invented spelling and allow them to draw a picture to go along with their sentence. Display their work as if their creatures were in a zoo cage.


9.Now I will take out flashcards with different words on them; some that start with Z and some will not (zero, zebra, house, car, zap, apple, zucchini, animal). I will read the flashcard one by one and have the students repeat after me. See if you can hear the zipper sound in the words. If you hear the zipper sounds hold up a thumbs up, if you don’t hear the zipper sounds hold up a thumbs down.


Assessment: hand out the worksheet. Students are to color in the pictures that begin with Z and complete the partial spellings. Also use the creature sentences from step #8 and the worksheet to assess individual understanding of the letter Z. 



Adams, Marilyn-Jager. (1990) Beginning to Read: Thinking and Learning About Print.  Center for the study of Reading and the Reading Research and Education Center, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne-12.


Dr. Suess. ABC: An Amazing Alphabet Book. Random House: NY, NY. 1963


Hummer, Melanie. Mouth Moves and Gestures for Phonemes.


Betbeze, Meg. Hurry Home Harry! Summer 2005.


Assessment Worksheet:



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