Michigan State University
Michigan State University
Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures
Meet FYW Student Jen Davis
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Meet First Year Writing Student Jen Davis

Written by Hanna Kielar


Davis with her students in Brazil.


Sharing her experience teaching English to Brazilian students at the First Year Writing (FYW) Fall Symposium, FYW student Jen Davis brought two cultures together when she remixed a memoir of this experience for her final FYW project.

“It’s much easier to write papers and do projects when you’re actually passionate about what you’re writing about,” said Davis when asked to give advice to first year writing students in the future. Davis, a secondary math education major, doesn’t exactly think of writing and reading as her greatest passions. But, after teaching in Brazil, she may choose to earn a minor in Teaching English as a Second Language (TESOL).

Davis’s path to working in Brazil happened in high school. In her senior year at Reading High, she dual enrolled at Jackson College’s Hillsdale campus in a program called “US-Brazil Connect.” She was paired up with thirteen Brazilian high school students who had varying levels of English proficiency. Davis spent eight weeks creating lesson plans and connecting with her class via Facebook. She would post assignments to their Facebook group twice a week, and also hosted a Google hangout where she gave students discussion prompts and created a safe space for them to practice their English speaking skills.

She then got the chance of a lifetime to go with US-Brazil Connect to Brazil for a month to teach her students in person. For four hours a day, four days a week, Davis would instruct her students, taking them through lesson plans and giving assignments in English to increase their vocabulary and their confidence.

“It [was] a lot of fun, too, just building relationships with them,” Davis said. “I wouldn’t have had [the same experience] if I wasn’t so close with my students.” That was the realization Davis came to while writing her memoir in WRA110 Writing: Science and Technology, the project that she remixed for the FYW Symposium.

In our FYW classes, students are required to remix a project they did earlier in the semester into something different. This usually entails turning a paper into a multimedia presentation - the only rule is that the students aren’t allowed to hand in another paper and call it a day.The memoir project asks students to detail an experience and reflect on it from a distance. Davis combined the two for her presentation at the FYW Fall Symposium where we learned of her amazing work and decided to feature her for our first FYW student story.


A typical Google Hangout with Davis and some of her students.


At the FYW Fall Symposium, Davis hosted a live Google hangout with some of her students from the program where she asked them to complete a typical set of assignments and prompts that they would do in a regular session. She told us that one of her favorite activities to do was to ask each student to draw out their favorite food or season, or something else, and then describe it. This exercise highlighted her experience with teaching them because every student was individually showcased, giving them all a chance to speak and interact with Davis and one another.

Without having the opportunity to reflect on her experience through the assignments in her FYW course, Davis said she wouldn’t have gotten so much out of her work in Brazil. We’re feeling pretty lucky she agreed to talk with us for this story, and even more thrilled our FYW students are doing such interesting, beneficial work!

If you’re interested in learning more about the FYW Fall Symposium, take a look at this article. And be sure to keep an eye out for information about FYW’s Spring Conference, happening April 22nd!