Buzz Like a Bee with the Letter Z

Buzz Like a Bee with the Letter Z

An Emergent Literacy Lesson

Lauren Nix


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 (a buzzing bee) 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. 

Materials - Primary paper and pencil; crayons and drawing paper; chart paper with “Zebras zip zig-zag zippers” on it; Word cards: ZIP, BUZZ, JAG, ZOO, FLIP, ZERO, ZONK; Zella, Zack, and Zodiac (Bill Peet); assessment worksheet identifying pictures with /z/


1. Say: “Our written language is a secret code. Learning what letters stand for and say can be a little tricky. By moving our mouths as we say each word, we can find out what each letter stands for. Today, we’re going to work on spotting the mouth move /z/. We spell /z/ with the letter Z. Have you ever heard bees buzz with the letter Z? The letter Z sounds just like a buzzing bee. 

2. Say: “Let’s pretend we are like bees buzzing through a field for some honey, /z/, /z/, /z/. Notice how your tongue touched the top of your mouth and you felt the vibrations. That’s what we do when we say the letter /z/.”

3. Say: “Now I’ll show you how to find /z/ in the word zap. I’m going to stretch out zap out in slow motion and listen for the vibrations. Zzz-a-p. Slower: Zzzz-a-a-a-p-p. I heard the vibrations! I felt my tongue at the top of my mouth! I can feel the /z/ in zap!”

4. Say: “Now let’s try a tongue twister. “Zebras zip zig zag zippers.” Okay, that was really good, but this time let’s try and stretch out the /z/ at the beginning of each word. “Zzzebras zzzip zzzzig-zzzzag zzzippers.” This time, let’s try and break the /z/ off the word. “/Z/ ebra /z/ ip /z/ ig /z/ ag /z/ ippers.” 

5. (Prompt students to take out primary paper and pencil). “We use the letter Z to spell z/. Let’s practice drawing the letter /z/. We are going to use this special paper and make a zig-zag just like a bee does when they buzzing around. Start at the rooftop and make a big zig-zag to the sidewalk. We are going to take our pencil and make a super straight line to the right and then across to the sidewalk and then another super straight line to the right. Do you see how your /z/ makes a zig-zag? The big Z you wrote is called a capital Z. Now we’re going to practice writing a lowercase z, which is just a smaller version of the one you just wrote. What you’re going to do is start at the fence at make a straight line to the right. Then you’re going to draw a line across to the sidewalk. Then you’re going to draw another straight line. When you’re done, I want to see everyone’s. After I’ve checked your work, I want you to try to write it nine more times!”

6. Call on students to answer and tell how they know the correct answer. Say: “Do you hear /z/ in zap or pap? zoo or boo? zig or jig? Say: “Let’s practice this tongue tickler: “Zebras zipped a zillion zippers. Now can you feel your tongue at the roof of your mouth when you say those words?

7. Say: “Now we’re going to read Zella, Zack, and Zodiac. In this story, Zella the Zebra helps Zack the Ostrich grow up and become an adult ostrich. One day, Zella has a kid named Zodiac. Zack the Ostrich returns the favor and watches Zodiac grow up. How do you think Zack helps Zodiac? There are a lot of words that start with /z/ in this story. When you hear them, I want you to wiggle your fingers in the air and when everyone has their fingers in the air, we’ll draw a /z/ in the air with our fingers.” Once we have finished the book, the children will get the opportunity to draw anything that starts with the letter /z/. The children will then write a short sentence about what they drew. They will get to share it with the class so that every child can have an opportunity to show what they know about the letter. 

8. Show ZONK and model how to decipher whether it is zonk or honk. Say “The /z/ tells me to buzzzzz like a bee, so this word is z-z-zonk. How about you try some? Zag: zag or bag?, Red: zed or red?, Real: zeal or real? Zen: zen or pen?”

9. For assessment, distribute the worksheet. Students are to color the pictures that start with the letter /z/ and trace the letters. Call on students individually to read the phonetic cue words from step #8. 

Reference: Sykes, Abby. Buzzy Bee says “Zzzzzzz”

Assessment worksheet:

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