Home‎ > ‎

Z is for Zoe the Zooming Zebra

Z is for Zoe the Zooming Zebra

Emergent Literacy Design

Rationale: This lesson will help children identify /z/, the phoneme represented by Z. Students will learn to recognize /z/ in spoken words by learning a meaningful representation (zipping and zooming in a race car) and the letter symbol Z, practice finding /z/ in words, and apply phoneme awareness with /z/ with tongue twisters.

Materials: Primary paper, pencil, poster board with the phrase, “the zany zebra zoe zipped and zoomed around zoo”, poster with the letter Z, white board, dry erase markers, “Zigby Camps Out” by Brian Paterson (HarperCollins, 2002), assessment worksheet (link provided), cards with ZAG, ZIP, ZOO, LOOM, and MAP


1. Start the lesson by telling students, “In our language, our spoken and written words are made up of many different letters. For every letter in our alphabet, we move our mouth in a different way to say that letter or word. Today we are going to learn the mouth move /z/. The mouth move /z/ is spelled with the letter Z (show students the poster with the letter Z) See the Z looks like a zigzag.”

2. Say: Let’s pretend we are all zipping up our jumpsuits and going to zoom around a race track. What sound racecars make when they’re zooming around the racetrack? Yes, /z/, /z/, /z/. To make this sound, put your teeth together. Then touch the tip of our tongue above your top teeth. There should be a tickling feeling between your teeth as you say /z/. Pretend like you’re zooming around in a cool racecar - as you say /z/. (Show the students how to model this.) Okay, let’s practice acting like we’re driving a racecar while making the /z/ sound.

3. Model for the students how to think about the beginning sounds in words, and have them try.  Say: Do I hear /z/ in zebra or elephant? /z/.. I hear /z/ in zebra. (Remember to act like you are driving a racecar. They should do it with you). Do I hear /z/ in zipper or shorts? /z/… zipper. Now have the students try. Do you hear /z/ in zero or four? Do you hear /z/ in zoo or park?

4. Say: Now let’s try a tongue twister (written on chart). “The Zany Zebra Zoe Zipped and Zoomed around the Zoo.” Everybody say it three times together.  Now say it again, and this time stretch the /z/ at the beginning of the words. “The zzzany the zzzebra zzzoe zzzipped and zzzoomed around the zzzoo.”

5. (Have students take out primary paper and pencil.) Say: We use the letter Z to spell /z/. (Display the capital and lowercase letter Z on the board.) Model how to make a capital Z on the board. (In this lesson, I refer to the top line of the primary paper as the rooftop, the middle, dotted line as the fence, and the bottom line as the sidewalk.) We are going to learn how to write the letter Z. What does the Z say? Class responds: /z/ while acting like they are zipping around a racetrack. To make a capital Z, you have to zig across the rooftop (to the right), zag down through the fence to the sidewalk (diagonal across the lines), and zig (to the right) back to the right across the sidewalk. Repeat the steps while the students make a capital Z on their paper as you model how to write another one of the board. Say: Now everybody practice that five more times for me (walk around the room to check to make sure everyone is writing Z correctly).

6. After they have mastered the capital Z, model how to write a lowercase z. Say: To make a lowercase Z you do the same thing as the capital Z. We zig, zag, zig (say this while demonstrating writing the letter) just like the capital Z, but this time you start on the fence instead of the rooftop. Now everybody practice that five more times for me (walk around the room to make sure everyone is writing z correctly).

7. Once everyone is finished, gather the students and say, “Today we are going to read Zigby Camps Out. This book is about a zebra named Zigby that gets a package in the mail from his aunt Zandra. What is in this package? We will have to read and find out.” Remind students to act like they are driving a racecar when they hear the /z/ sound throughout the book. Model this procedure by reading the title.

8. Show ZAG and model how to decide if it is zag or tag: The Z tells me to zoom like a racecar, /z/, so this word is zzz-ag, zag. You try some: ZIP: zip or lip? MAP: zap or map? ZOO: zoo or boo? LOOM: zoom or loom?

9. For assessment, have students complete the worksheet found in the given link. Students must select the picture that begins with the letter Z and color the pictures that begin with Z. Students are to be called up individually to read the phonetic cue words from step 8 while they are working on the worksheet.



Adams, Marilyn. Beginning to Read: Thinking and Learning about Print - A Summary. Champaign: Center for the Study of Reading Research and Education Center, 1990.

Murray, Bruce: Brush Your Teeth with F


Paterson, Brian. “Zigby Camps Out”. Harper Collins Publishing. 2002.

Roberts, Hope: Mmmm Yummy!


Wilson, Meg: Z is for Zigby the Zebra


Click Here to Return to Edifications