Emergent Literacy Design: Buzz with Z

By: Molly Newton

Rationale: This lesson will help children identify /z/, the phoneme represented by M. They will accomplish this goal by learning a meaningful representation (circular motion with finger), the letter symbol Z, practicing finding /z/ in words, and applying phoneme awareness with /z/ in phonetic cue reading by distinguishing rhyming words from beginning letters.

Materials: Primary paper and pencils, chart with “Zeb the zany zebra zooms through the zoo”, drawing paper and crayons, Dr. Seuss’s ABC (Random House, 1963), word cards with ZAP, ZEN, ZONK, ZONE, ZEST, and ZING, assessment worksheet copies (URL below)


1.    Say: Each letter in the alphabet has a special sound. In order to learn the sound that a letter makes we must recognize how our mouth moves while we make the letter’s sound. Today we are going to work on learning the mouth move for the letter Z. Z says /z/. Z looks like a 7 with a line at the bottom, and /z/ sounds like the sound that a bee makes when he buzzes through the air.

2.    Thinking about how a bee sounds when he buzzes will help us remember the sound the letter Z makes. Let’s pretend our finger is a bee buzzing through the air, /z/, /z/, /z/. [Finger moves in a circular motion in the air.] Notice where your tongue is in mouth. When I say /z/ my tongue almost touches my teeth and I let air and sound come out of my mouth. My tongue tickles when I say /z/.

3.    I think I can find /z/ in the word zap. I’m going to say the word super slowly so that I can hear each sound and listen for the buzzzzzzing bee. Zzzzz-aaaaapppppp. Slower: Zzzz-aaa-pppp. I heard it! (Make buzzing bee motion.) I knew /z/ was in the word zap when I noticed that my tongue was almost touching my teeth, air and sound were leaving my mouth, and my tongue tickled.

4.    I think a tongue tickler will help us remember the sound a little better [on chart]. “Zeb the zany zebra zooms through the zoo.” Let’s all say the tongue tickler three times together. Every time you hear /z/ I want you to make the buzzing bee motion. (After reading three times) Now let’s say it together one more time, but say the /z/ at the beginning of words in super slow motion: “Zzzeb the zzzany zzzebra zzzooms through the zzzoo.” This time, I want us all to break the /z/ sound away from the rest of the word. Let’s try! “/Z/eb the /z/any /z/ebra /z/ooms through the /z/oo.”

5.    [Pass out primary paper and pencils.] We have already talked about how the letter Z represents the /z/ sound. I told you all that capital Z is just a 7 with a line on the bottom. Lowercase z looks the same as capital Z, just smaller. I want all of you to write a lowercase z for me. Start by making the number 7. Then, go back. Your letter should look like a zigzag. After I check your letter, write nine more on your paper. I want all of you to have good practice at making the letter that says /z/.

6.    [Call on students at random to identify /z/ in words. Students will be asked to give an explanation of how they found the sound also.] Do you hear /z/ in zero or three? Aquarium or zoo? Zip or Button? Now I want you guys to show me how you know the mouth move for /z/. Make the buzzing bee motion when you hear /z/: look, jazz, home, cast, gaze, fuzz, worn, city.

7.    This alphabet book shows us all of the letters in the alphabet and helps us remember the sounds each letter makes, by using silly words with each letter. Let’s look for Z in Dr. Seuss’s book. [Read pg. 56, drawing out /z/. Ask children if they can come up with other silly words or names using the /z/ sound, like Zazzy Zan Zazzerton. Each student can then write the silly word or name on their paper, spelling it as best as they can and drawing a picture at the top of the page. Each child will have time to share the writing and artwork with the other students in the small group.]

8.    [Show word card with ZAP written on it. Model how to determine if /z/ is in the word.] When I see the letter Z I know to make the buzzing bee motion with my finger and put my tongue to my teeth and say /z/. This word is zzz-aaa-ppp, zap. It’s your turn to try: ZEN: den or zen? ZONK: zonk or honk? ZONE: zone or phone? ZEST: rest or zest? ZING: zing or sing?

9.    [Students will be assessed through the completion of the worksheet linked below. They will have to draw a line from the zebra with the letter Z to the pictures whose names start with /z/. Students will be called individually to read phonetic cue words from step 8.]

Reference: Geri Murray M design http://www.auburn.edu/~murrag1/MurrayEL.htm

Dr. Seuss. (1963). Dr. Seuss's ABC: An Amazing Alphabet Book. New York: Random House, Inc.

Assessment worksheet:

Z Poster: http://www.123rf.com/photo_13330262_letter-z.html

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