Letter Z Sound


The letter /z/ is the last letter taught in the alphabet and one of the last letter taught in most jolly phonics programs. This is naturally because it comes at the end of the English alphabet, and also it is not a frequently used letter in English. Despite this, after learning the sounds and blending of the other letters, much students should be able to say the letter z sound once learned.

Phonics Pronunciation of the Letter Z Sound

The letter /z/ is usually taught by pretending to be a buzzing bee, while saying the zzzzzzz sound. The /z/ sound is made in a similar way to the /s/ sound, but the sound is voiced and thus will have your vocal cords vibrating when you are making the sound. To make the sound, put the tip of your tongue behind the front of your teeth, and near the roof of your mouth. The sides of your tongue will rise a bit and allow air to pass through the middle of your tongue. Your teeth should be closed and your lips up in a smile shape, while vibrating your vocal cords to make the /z/ sound. You can hold this sound for a few second to show that like the /s/ sound, the /z/ sound also does not have an inherent end.

After your students can repeat and remember the /z/ sound well, you can move on with the vowel variations as in za,za,za, zee,zee,zee, and zoo,zoo,zoo. In time your students will be able to blend these sounds well and be ready for the three letter CVC words.

Watch this letter z sound video for more help!

Visual hints

As the /z/ sound is not learned by students until later on, its best to help them with some visual cues for this sound. As you say the /z/ sound, use your pointer fingers and pull back the corners of your mouth into a smile shape. You can encourage your students to copy you when making the sound. You can even use a mirror to help them see themselves when making the /z/ sound, if they are struggling to pronounce it.

Handwriting Help with letter /z/

Even though the letter /z/ is just three lines, with the uppercase and lower case being the same, some students still struggle when remembering how to write it. They may end up writing the letter /z/ backwards, similar to writing the /s/ backwards.

Our recommendation for this it to emphasize starting the letter on the left and moving towards the right and down, and to make sure they always start on the left. The problem may be if students do not know where to start, which could lead to their problems. Buy some phonics books and various workbook to help with this problem.

Alternatively you can break down the letter, and have them write the number “7” first, as many students can recognize this letter. Then when they can write “7” correctly, tell them to finish it off with going to the right for the letter /z/ sound. This should help them write the letter piece by piece, and remember how to write it for later on. It’s always good for students who cannot remember certain letters to break them down, and combine them like blending. This will help students ultimately remember them, and which area they are getting wrong.

Activity hints

The /z/ sound can be really fun for students, as your teeth vibrate when making the sound!

You can play with your students by buzzzzzzing around the room like a bee, or zzzzzzooooming around the house like a race car. You can also play of “freeze” like freeze tag or red light green light, and have the students practice their /z/ sound as well. Students really like to say this sound with the feeling of the vibrations on their teeth.

Letter /z/ Blending

As the letter /z/ can be harder for younger students to remember, remind them to focus on the vibrations of the sound. You can also review for them the /s/ and /z/ sound, so they can understand and hear the differences between the voiced /z/ sound and voiceless /s/ sound. This will also help them later on for 2 sound pairs, as they will also encounter this with harder sound such as /th/. After the students can pronounce and remember the /z/ sound well, you can move on with the vowel variations as in za,za,za, zee,zee,zee, and zoo,zoo,zoo.

After the students can blend these sounds well, introduce the three letter CVC words to them as in z-a-p, z-oo, z-i-g z-a-g. As the letter /z/ is not a very common letter in the English language and phonics, you will need to further introduce them 4 and 5 letters words after they can blend the sounds well. This will also help them with longer blending, and by the end of the alphabet, they should be able to blend most 3 letter words independently. You can have them try the harder sounds as in z-e-r-o, z-e-b-r-a, z-i-p-p-er.

It’s also important for students to practice the /z/ sound as at the end of the words. You can have students start blending these words to understand the different and sound of these words with the letter /z/. Therefore, be sure to introduce more words for them with these words such as b-u-zz, j-a-zz, wh-i-zz.

If your child still struggles with this sound, be sure to checkout some ABC books to help them out.

Everyday English

As the letter /z/ is not a very common letter in English and phonics, be sure to review the blending of the words before your introduce more everyday english words to the students.

The most common /z/ words for students are zero, zoo and zebra. You can have students draw or color pictures of a zebra.

Another longer word for blending is zig-zag. You can use this to practice writing the lines to make the letter /z/ shape.

Letter /z/ sentence reading

After learning how to say and blend words with the letter /z/, it’s good to introduce basic sentences to the children to read. These sentences are meant to be basic for students learning the alphabet letters and phonics as their second language.

Here are some short sentences you can read together with the students.

Zig zag, zig zag.

I like the zoo.

I zip the bag.

A bee goes buzz.

It’s important your students practice reading short sentences, so they gain the confidence and can practice their blending skills. Therefore, encourage your students to read these sentences to improve their phonics and blending with the letter /z/ !

Letter Z tongue twisters

The letter /z/ can be one of the funnest sounds for tongue twisters because of the vibrating /z/. Get your teeth ready for some fun /z/ sentences!

Zizzi’s zippy zipper zips.

Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear. Fuzzy Wuzzy had no hair. So Fuzzy, Wuzzy wasn’t really Fuzzy, was he?

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