We’ve known our words have consequences since early elementary, but do certain words cause different effects than others? If that’s the case, how do we make sure to choose the right one?

In their Term 1 English project, JR1 students investigated these questions with an actionable goal in mind: to raise money for a community in need. T. Amanda visited our classroom to share her personal experience volunteering at El Hueco, a small community outside of Jaco, and fundraising with the organization Backpacks & Snacks. This non-profit group donates essential items so that youth from El Hueco can tackle their studies. Equally important, volunteers give their time to tutor these same kids on weekends.

As a class, we brainstormed the best ways we could think of to help, and from that list we selected ideas through which we could practice language arts skills. Knowing that our words would be made public, we discussed the importance of appearing professional and studied different sentence types. On top of writing in complete sentences, great writers also vary their sentence lengths to show relationships and sound less repetitive. Most of the grammar practice came from online tools and sharing amongst classmates.

Our first fundraising event, the bake sale, was as much fun to plan as it was to carry out. After choosing a range of items for the menu, students constructed word maps highlighting the taste, texture, ingredients and design of their treats by searching for synonyms of words they already knew well. These synonym investigations provided authentic, in-the-moment opportunities to correct language misuse; for example, analyzing the effect of quickly substituting a synonym for “warm” without double-checking the definition and calling a cookie “peppery.” The word map fed into the formal writing product: two versions of the same paragraph description of the bake sale item, one with accessible language for Section B and the other with more elevated language for Section C.

Students took over the planning of the bake sale during the days leading up to the event, practicing an impressive list of 21st century skills including collaboration, communication, flexibility, leadership and initiative. While a pair of students worked on an email to send out to the community, another organized items and prices into a chart, several more prepared an oral announcement to give to other classes in person, and a small group prepped flyers on Canva. During the bake sale, they showed great stamina and social skills, graciously accepting constructive criticism and proactively looking for places to improve. The two classes together raised 120,000 colones!

Finally, the students worked in pairs on flyers requesting more donations to be displayed at the Elementary III Poet’s Café at the Residence Inn. They considered the fact that their audience was not familiar with the organization Backpacks & Snacks, but since a flyer has limited space they carefully chose what context was necessary to include. A JR1 student attending the event with her family announced our fundraiser and gathered even more to add to the total.

Last weekend, Backpacks & Snacks supplied almost fifty families in El Hueco with meal staples to help the community children head to school full and ready to learn. As their teacher, I was thrilled to witness the immediate reaction my students had to making a positive impact outside the school walls. JR1 pushed themselves to do their best work, and they should be proud of everything they achieved!


Text by Kelsey Jiménez