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The 4Cs of the 21st Century is unquestionably not a new paradigm in ESL classrooms, however, there is still a vast area that has not been fully explored. In the area of ESL writing instructional pedagogy, there are numerous ways to integrate the 4Cs of the 21st Century. In this write-up, I would like to share a technique which I name as “WHO AM I?” Technique or WAIT. Before I explain more about WAIT, let’s have a quick revision on each of the 4Cs.

Communication is about sharing thoughts, questions, ideas, and solutions. In ESL classrooms, communication can be promoted through pair or group work. On the other hand, collaboration is about working together to reach a goal and putting talent, expertise, and ideas to work. Next is critical thinking which is looking at problems in a new way and linking learning across subjects and disciplines. In ESL writing classrooms, critical thinking is also closely related to decision making. Learners have a number of ideas and details to be included in their essays, however, they have to think critically and decide which ones are the best or most convincing and relevant. Last but not the least is creativity. Creativity is the process of bringing something new into being. In simpler term, creativity refers to something which is different from the norm; thinking outside the box.

So how can WAIT nurture and develop the 4Cs of the 21st Century? In my ESL writing classrooms, WAIT is implemented in writing Continuous Essays, particularly the narrative or descriptive essays. These are the steps involved in the implementation of WAIT:

  1. Teacher explains about WAIT. “I” refers to the main character in the essay. Learners are encouraged not to assume “I” as a 17-year-old school student. Before “I” is decided, learners have to brainstorm and list down about 3-5 characters which suit the essay question well. Some examples are given below. When they have some candidates for “I” or the main character, only then learners discuss, think critically and decide who would be the best character in their essay.

  2. Learners are grouped (3-5 members per group). Grouping is up to the teacher. It is advisable that there should be good, average and weak learners in each group. The good learners can lead and guide the other learners.

  3. Each group is given a Continuous Writing essay question. Teacher may give the same essay question to all groups or each group gets a different Continuous Writing question. If each group gets a different essay question, then learners will be exposed to more ideas on how WAIT can be implemented in essay writing.

  4. All group members have to discuss, think critically and decide who is “you”, “someone”, “a man” or “stranger” stated in the question.

Example 1:

SPM 2018: Imagine you went to a big sports event. Describe what you saw, what happened and how you felt on that day.

Who Am I?

A school student?

A former national sprinter?

A foreign tourist?

An important leader?

Minister of Youth and Sports?

Example 2:

SPM 2018: Describe a problem you once had while you were travelling. Explain what you did to solve the problem and what you have learnt from the experience.

Who Am I?

A single mother who travelled with five children?

A grandfather who was on the way to visit his grandchild?

An ex-prisoner was just released from prison?

A famous superstar?

A businessman who was facing serious financial problems?

Example 3:

SPM 2015: Write a story about someone you know who took a big risk and had a good result. Begin your story with: “Everybody said that the plan would never work. It was far too risky...”

A beggar?

A school dropout?

An orphan?

A scientist?

A farmer?

* The processes of brainstorming, discussing and deciding the main character certainly involve communication, collaboration, creativity and critical thinking.

5. Once the main character is decided by the group members, they proceed with the discussion on the content of their essay in line with the question given to them. This discussion definitely nurtures the 4Cs of the 21st Century.

6. Each group presents their main character and storyline or the essay content. Teacher should encourage other learners to evaluate each group’s presentation and give comments for improvement. Again, this interaction between group members and the other learners promotes communication, collaboration, creativity and critical thinking.


Based on my experience, without WAIT, most of the SPM candidates will always choose to be a 17-year-old student in their essay. You may reflect on the main character of your own learners’ essays. I am positive most of the time, their main characters is a school student. If you do not believe me, please give them this question and later, ask them about the main character in their essay:

Question: Describe a surprised event that is planned and organised by your family members. Describe the event and how you felt.

Is it wrong to be a 17-year-old student in their essay? Surely, there is nothing wrong. However, when most of the learners choose to have more or less the same main character in their essay, creativity will be rare; it is not enhanced. How can creativity be there when most of them write about the same thing? Therefore, if they are exposed to WAIT and apply it effectively, there will be a long list of different main character in their essay. Based on the essay question above, “you” could be a dying grandmother, an uncle who came back from London after spending 30 years there or an adopted daughter who was reunited with her biological mother. Undoubtedly, the essay written from the perspectives of an uncle who spent 30 years in London and an adopted child who was so excited to be reunited with her biological mother would be really different! Each essay will have a greater chance to be different, creative, interesting and original. That is how WAIT can promote CREATIVITY in Continuous Writing and in the process, nurtures COMMUNICATION, COLLABORATION AND CRITICAL THINKING.

I hope this sharing has given some insights to ESL teachers on how to promote the 4Cs of the 21st Century, in particular creativity in essay writing among their learners. Even though to some learners, creativity is not inborn, it does not mean there is no chance and space for ESL teachers to nurture and develop their creativity. All we need to do is to implement WAIT. In shaa Allah, I am confident your learners will be more creative. I have been witnessing the growth of my learners’ creativity for years. Alhamdulillah.

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