Teaching English to Generation Z students

Teaching English to Generation Z students


How best to identify the best EFL/ESL teaching strategies for the GEN Z learners of English


Primary, secondary schools, universities, educational organisations, private and state language schools, ESL centres for immigrants. In general, anyone who needs to teach English either as a Foreign language or a second language to GEN Z students.


To be able best engage and teach English to students based on the generation they belong to. Fixed factors like time, budget, human resources, etc. will of course influence the result but nonetheless, a seemingly unassuming bit like the GEN factor may just make or break your TEFL or TESOL plan. The Gen Z thinks and behaves differently from the other generations that preceded them. Understanding the new generations of students and the way they learn is the key for good, effective and useful EFL/ESL plans.

Definition of terms used

  • Baby Boomers – 1946 – 1964 – This large generation was due to the many soldiers who returned home after World War II and started families. More people were

    born in this twenty-year period than at any other time in United States history.

  • Generation X – born between 1965 – 80- This generation was much smaller than the Boomer generation. Gen Xers have been generally characterized as hard working, independent and skeptical.
  • Generation Y – born between 1981 – 99 – This generation came into being during the last two decades of the 20th century. Its members are identified as confident and technologically advanced, and they come with a sense of entitlement.
  • Generation Z – born between 2000 – present – This name refers to those born since 2000, a group that has received little attention in the literature thus far.

Generation z girls

The Characteristics and Learning Style of Generation Z

The Gen Z is social, good at multitasking, speedy and is into instant gratification. Their learning styles and preferences are different from those of the Baby Boomers, the Gen X and to a certain extent the Gen Y. They:

1. Experiment and Learn. They prefer learning by doing rather than being told what to do or reading static books. These students are able to intuitively use a variety of IT devices & browse the Internet. They like to tinker with the up-to-date electronic gadgets, such as iPods, MP3 players and mobile phones. They use the Internet to learn something new, to research what they don’t know, to meet new people and make friends. They make their own photo gallery, learn new Apps, learn a new tool for blogging and so on and so forth. They take the initiative to learn new tools. They don’t know something, they “Google it” or “Go to Wikipedia”.

2. Visual Learning is King. Technology and all its ever changing trimmings have been present all their lives. Also known as the Net Gen, they have no problem and are actually very comfortable with all sorts of digital devices such as computers, tablets, PDAs, iPods, MP4, iPhones, androids, etc. The list just changes so fast and the Gen Z adapts to it as fast as the changes come. They are used to interactive computer games and movies, at home or in school whether so teachers must use rich visual effects to motivate, engage and teach these students.

3. Good team players. Other Gens (Baby Boomers, Xs, to a certain extent the Ys) were told that working in teams, being a good team player was an essential quality at work from an entry to management levels. You don’t need to teach the Gen Z the importance of being a team player. They like working on teams with peers, using collaborative tools like Google Apps. In general, they like learning in a supportive environment with teamwork. The Net Generations like to build up their learning by working with peers where the slower learners are supported by the fast learners, and they learn by scaffolding the knowledge from each other. To them, there is nothing wrong if you do not understand straight away when you are first learning something new. The Gen Z like to share their experiences in groups. The market with Google, Facebook, You Tube has many innovative applications to create a good working environment for these learners.

Teenager girl

4. Have short attention spans and multi-task well. The media-rich environment that the Net Generation has become accustomed to appears to have shortened their attention span. If you ask them to work on the same thing for hours, it would probably overwhelm or frustrate them. They will probably enjoy the activities more if they can get several things done simultaneously, because they can usually shift attention rapidly from one task to another. They are generally able to multi-task better than their parents and can split their attention between different activities. Thus, an instructor should not be surprised by seeing a student listening to music, surfing the Internet, and talking to friends on the phone while doing homework. These diverse activities are all part of the Net Generations‘ daily lives.

5. Edutainment. Derived from education and entertainment. Entertaining education or educational entertainment. According to Wikipedia, ―Edutainment typically seeks to instruct or socialize its audience by embedding lessons in some familiar form of entertainment: television programs, computer and video games, films, music, websites, multimedia software, etc. Compared to the traditional teaching perspective of the older generations, with the Z generation, there is little importance given to the teacher’s authority. These Gen Z students value learning if they consider it interactive with games and fun activities incorporated into the EFL/ESL and curriculum.

The Good Teacher for the Gen Z

  1. EFL/ESL teachers need to use more technology in their teaching strategies. Teachers need to update their teaching strategies. They need to adopt more technology-based tasks, include visual content and give students opportunities to give and receive feedback. Start a class blog and think of reasons how your class can use the class blog. How they contribute their ideas on the blog and how you can teach them on the blog. span as learners need to be stimulated all the time.
  2. Bring movies into the class and make your students to review the movies by taking notes and discussing their findings in class
  3. As these Gen Z are multitaskers, you can incorporate pictures, sounds, video into all your teaching activities. You can have listening, drawing and speaking activities at the same time.
  4. Let them record and upload their presentations, reports on YouTube and establish an online communication by bringing different cultures and countries together.
  5. Make them access tech sophisticated EFL and ESL sites to create their own pictures

Generation Z boy

After all is said and done, after all the talk about tech savvy Gens, teachers are advised not to throw away all the traditional methods in favour of the new technology based teaching strategies. The most practical way to look at this is for teachers to innovate, technify, change within reason. As one saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” The traditional method of teaching EFL/ESL isn’t broke, it just needs updating, upgrading and innovating. TEFL and TESOL are for non-English speakers to learn English and we hope that the young learners learn it as early as possible. The players have changed but the EFL/ESL game is still the same.

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