Zipping Up Z!


Emergent Literacy Design
Meg Terry


This lesson will help children identify /z/, the phoneme represented by the grapheme Z. Students will learn to recognize /z/ in spoken words by learning a memorable representation (zipping up a jacket) and the letter symbol Z, practice finding /z/ in words, and apply phoneme awareness with /z/ in phonetic cue reading by distinguishing rhyming words from beginning letters.


tongue twister chart, primary paper, pencils, pictures (of a zebra, zipper, maze, wizard, and zoo), Zack the Lazy Zebra by Wendy Cheyette Lewison (Scholastic, 2001), phonetic cue word flashcards of ZAG, ZERO, BOOM, NED, ZANY, assessment worksheet with pictures and crayons


1. Say: ''Today, we are going to learn the letter Z and the sound it makes /z/. This sounds like we are zipping up our jacket. Let's pretend we are zipping up our jackets, /z/, /z/, /z/. (Pantomime the zipping motion.) When we say /z/, the tip of your tongue touches above your top teeth. From now on every time we see Z or hear /z/, we will zip up our jackets.''

2. ''I'm going to show you how to find /z/ in some different words. Listen while I stretch out the word buzz. Bbbb-uzzzz. Slower: Bbbb-u-zzzzz. Did you hear it? The tip of my tongue touched above my top teeth. How about the word crazy? Listen for the /z/. Cccc-rrrr-aaaa-zy. Slower: Cccc-rrrr-aaaa-zzzzz-yyy. There it was! I could feel the zipper sound in crazy.''

3. ''Now, let's try a tongue twister. (Hold up chart). 'Zack zoomed to the zoo to see the zebra.' Let's say this together three times while we zip up our jackets. We are going to say it again, but this time I want you to stretch the /z/ at the beginning of the words. 'Zzzzzzack zzzzzoomed to the zzzzzzoo to see the zzzzzzebra.' Now, do you think we make the /z/ sound and pause before saying the rest of the word? '/z/ ack /z/ oomed to the /z/ oo to see the /z/ ebra.'''

4. ''Let's practice how we write the letter Z to spell /z/. (Give every student primary paper and a pencil.) Capital Z and lowercase z look the same, but capital Z is just a little bigger than lowercase z. Let's write the capital Z first. Start on the rooftop and make a short straight line. Now, draw a line through the fence to the sidewalk like you are going to make the
number 7. Now, keep your pencil down and draw a short straight line on sidewalk. I want to see everyone's capital Z's. Then, you can make 10 more. Now, let's practice the
lowercase z. Start on the fence this time, and make a small straight line. Draw a line to the sidewalk like you are going to make a 7. From the end of the 7, draw a straight line on the sidewalk. Now you've made a lowercase z! Practice those on your paper and I will come around and check them.''

5. ''In the next activity, I am going to show you some pictures. The things on the pictures start with the letter Z. I want you to show me how you can make the /z/ sound when you say the word. I'll do one first to show you. (Show picture of a zebra.) This is a zzzzz-ebra. Now it's your turn.'' (Show students pictures of a zipper, a maze, a wizard, and a zoo, and have them say the appropriate name for each picture with emphasis on the letter Z).

6. ''You all are doing a great job finding the Z and sounding it out. So, I am going to call out a few words and I want you to tell me which words have the /z/ sound. Do you hear /z/ in zap or cat? Gift or prize? Test or quiz? Zone or home?''

7. ''Now, zip your jacket every time you hear /z/ in this sentence: The fuzzy lizard ate zucchini at Zoey's house in Brazil.''

8. ''We are going to read the book Zack the Lazy Zebra by Wendy Cheyette Lewison. The story is about a zebra named Zack that is always sleeping! We will have to read the story to find out if the zookeepers and Zack's other zebra friends can get him awake! Whenever you hear the /z/ sound, I want you to zip up your jackets.''

9. ''Now, I am going to show you some flashcards with a word on it, like this one. (Show ZAG.) I will give you two words and say, 'Is this word 'zag' or 'rag?' (Model I will decide whether the word is zag or rag.) The Z tells me to zip up my jacket, /z/. So, this word has to be zzzzz-ag. Zag. It's your turn to try: ZERO: Is this hero or zero? BOOM: zoom or boom? NED: ned or zed? ZANY: brainy or zany?”

10. Assessment: To assess the students, distribute a worksheet with several pictures on it of words with /z/ and words without /z/. Have the students color the pictures that have the /z/ sound and put an X on the pictures that do not have the /z/ sound. While the group is working on the worksheet, I will call each student over to assess individually, using the phonetic cue word flashcards from the previous step.


Hardin, Melinda (2008). Zig, Zag, and Zooming to the Zoo.

Montgomery, Morgan (2008). Mmm! Something smells good!

Murray, Bruce (2008). Brush Your Teeth with F.

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