Zipping Zig-Zag Zippers With Zebras




Emergent Literacy


Sarah Dansak



This lesson will help children identify the phoneme /z/, represented by the grapheme z and Z.  It is important that students be able to recognize the phonemes represented by individual graphemes like this one.  Students will learn to recognize /z/ in spoken words through a meaningful representation (zipping up a coat) so they will be able to remember the sound.  They will practice the /z/ sound by isolating the phoneme in spoken words and picking it out in written text.  They will also practice writing the corresponding grapheme z and Z.




-Primary Paper



-Assessment Worksheet (attached)

-Note cards

            (ZAP, ZONE, ZOO, ZING, ZERO)


-Tongue-Twister Chart

            (Zany Zebras Zoomed in the Zoo)

-Poem Chart

            ("We're Going to the Zoo")







1. Say: Today we are going to work on spotting how your mouth moves when you say the sound /z/.  We spell /z/ with the letter z, which looks like a zig-zag when we write it.  When you say /z/, it sounds like zipping up a coat.


2. Say:  Let's pretend to zip up our coats, /z/ /z/ /z/.  (Pretend to zip and unzip your coat.)  Do you notice where your tongue is?  When you say /z/, your tongue touches above your top teeth, and you turn your voice box on.  /z/.


3. Say:  Let me show you how to find /z/ in the word zoom.  I'm going to stretch zoom out in super slow motion, and I want you to listen for me zipping up my coat.  Zz-oo-oom.  Slower:  Zzz-ooo-ooomm.  I heard it!  I felt my tongue touch my top teeth and my voice box come on.  I can hear the zipping sound when I say zoom. 


4. Say:  Let's try a tongue twister together.  (On chart.)  Zany zebras zoomed in the zoo.  Everybody say it three times together.  Now say it again, and this time stretch the /z/ sound when you hear it at the beginning of the words.  Zzzany zzzebras zzzoomed in the zzzoo.    Now try it again, and this time, break the /z/ off of the word.  /Z/any  /z/ebras  /z/oomed  in the  /z/oo. 


5. [Have students take out primary paper and pencils.]  Say:  We use the letter z to spell /z/.  Capital Z looks like a big zig-zag.  To write capital Z, start at the rooftop and draw a big seven down to the sidewalk, and then go back.  Lowercase z looks just like capital Z.  To write a lowercase z, start at the fence and write a seven down to the sidewalk, and then go back.  I want everyone to write a lowercase z.  After I look at your z and put a sticker on your paper, I want you to practice by writing ten lowercase zs by yourself. 


6. Call on students and ask how they know the answer to the following:

Do you hear /z/ in zero or one?

Do you hear /z/ in sleepy or lazy?

Do you hear /z/ in crazy or funny?

Do you hear /z/ in furry or fuzzy?


7. Say:  Let's look at a poem that uses the /z/ sound.  Show chart with poem "We're Going to the Zoo" (attached).  I'll read the poem slowly, and every time you hear the /z/ sound I want you to zip your coats.


Call on students to specifically identify the words that start with z.  Have students take out paper, pencils, and crayons.  They will each draw an animal that lives in the zoo and come up with a name for it that starts with z.  Students should use their own invented spellings.  Have a couple of students show their animals to the class, and display everyone's work.


8. Show ZAP (on note card) and model how to decide if it is zap or cap.  Say:  The z tells me to zip my coat, /z/, so this word is zzz-ip, zip.  You try some: 

ZONE:  zone or lone?

ZOO:  boo or zoo?

ZING:  zing or ring?

ZERO:  hero or zero?


9. For assessment, distribute the worksheet (attached) and crayons.  Students are to complete the worksheet by coloring in the pictures that start with z.  During that time, call students up to read phonetic cue cards from Step #8 for additional individual assessment.





Murray, Bruce: "Brush Your Teeth With F"


Adams, M.J.  (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-Champaign.

Assessment Worksheet:  find it here




We're Going to the Zoo

Author: Anonymous


We're going to the zoo.

We'll see a kangaroo,

and then a cockatoo.


How about you?

We're going to the zoo, zoo, zoo.


Lions roar and play,

with tigers so they say.

Elephants spray

and zebras neigh

at the zoo all day.


We're going to the zoo,

How about you?

We're going to the zoo, zoo, zoo!



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