What comes to mind when you hear “Millennial” or “Gen Z?” We all know that they get a bad rap. Generations are different, and just like the Baby Boomers had to figure out how to teach the Gen Xers we need to look carefully at what we need to do to reach Millennials and Gen Zers. Basically, it comes down to knowing that these generations want to know the value and use of what they are learning. Let’s take a look at how to approach teaching languages to these generations and understand all they have to offer.
A quick review of the names of the generations over the past 70 years:
Age in 2018: 54-72
Age in 2018: 33-53
Age in 2018: 23-32
Born: 1996- present
Age in 2018: 0-22
I learned a lot about the Millennials and Gen Z from the Millennial Impact Project (2015) & The Business of Good (Haber, 2016). Haber’s book is about social entrepreneurs or entrepreneurs who want to make a social difference with profits from their companies. Looks like the Millennials and the Gen Z are approaching their employment with this goal.
Here are a few things that Haber writes about these these younger generations in The Business of Good:
“They don’t wait for taxis, they take Uber. They don’t wait for emails, they text. They don’t wait to work up the corporate ladder, they start their own business. It should come as no surprise that they have no interest in waiting to make a difference. It’s as if the generation has been hardwired to believe in the fierce urgency of now.”
OK, now that I’ve made the case for not giving them the bad rap that they get, let’s look at how we go about teaching this generation of elementary, middle and high school students as well as college students.
Let’s start by looking at the the brain and cognition. Some of this data is adapted from the work of Dr. Bobb Darnell of Achievement Strategies, Inc. (www.achievementstrategies.org)
Before the arrival of technology, Baby Boomer and Gen Xer brains :
- were good at single-tasking
- were able to sustain focus for long periods of time
- were adept on concentrating for long periods of time
After the arrival of technology, Millennial and Gen Z brains:
- are good at multi-tasking
- can effectively navigate multiple input streams
It is through no fault of their own, but rather the reality of how their brains are being wired for a certain kind of learning, that Millennials and Gen Zs have/are:
- Shorter Attention Spans
- Uncomfortable With Boredom
- That Fierce Urgency of Now
- Visually Preferred
- Interactive and Hands-On
- Love Challenge
- Success Trough Strategy
So…what we do? What are some ways to adapt our teaching, instruction, class routines, curriculum and relationships to the reality of the Millennial and Gen Z brain?
The PDF download includes tips and suggestions for…
- dealing with shorter attention spans and being uncomfortable with boredom
- responding to the fierce urgency of now
- preparing lessons and activities for students who are visually preferred
- creating opportunities for interactive and hands-on learning experiences
- adding challenge and elements of curiosity to classroom instruction
- guiding students toward success through strategies
One other thing to consider….Are we, in fact, listening to our students and providing what they need to be successful and proficiency speakers of the language that we teach? If they were aware of what their brain needs (or read this post), they would say to us:
- Challenge me.
- Let me work with others.
- Let’s have fun.
- Be flexible.
- Encourage me.
- Make me curious.
- Give me feedback.
- Learn from me too.
- Let me give you my ideas.
- I need to know the goal.
It is never easy to understand the experience and lens of a generation that is seemingly so different from our own. Our parents thought that we were going to be the demise of the world because we did things differently. Many of us are repeating the same behavior with the younger generations that we teach. Let’s break the cycle and celebrate all that our students have to offer.