Helping Students Write About Themselves: Journaling, Memoir Writing, and the College Application Personal Essay

Program Description

This program will offer three options depending upon the age level of the students and the length of time and/or purpose of the teacher’s unit:

  1. How to access deeper feelings while journaling through describing physical setting;
  2. How to create and design structure in memoir writing;
  3. How to write the Personal Essay for the Common Application (includes full-writing curriculum, including sample essays, prewriting activities, and outlining strategies).

It is crucial for a writer to access deeper and more concise memories to create compelling personal writing. Memories are more easily remembered and retrieved if the writer is experiencing strong emotions. The stronger the emotions are felt, the more evocative the writing will be. This program will help writers activate emotions and retrieve memories by demonstrating the technique of creating a sense of place through describing the physical setting. The workshop will walk attendees through a series of writing exercises, with each activity increasing the vividness of details and strengthening the emotional intensity of the writing. In this workshop, David Charpentier will share examples of this technique by reading sections from his recently published memoir, The Boy Who Promised Me Horses.

Presenter Bio

David Charpentier has worked in Indian education his entire professional career, which began in 1990 when he traveled (fresh out of college in Minnesota) to Ashland, Montana to teach high school English at St. Labre Indian School on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation. After ten years in the classroom, he established St. Labre’s College Mentoring Program, with the goal of helping more St. Labre alumni attend and graduate from college. In 2003, Charpentier founded the non-profit Bridge Foundation, which provides cultural, leadership, and educational programs for Native American Youth in southeastern Montana. He is currently the co-president of the Bridge Foundation and is partnering on projects with young tribal leaders on both the Northern Cheyenne and Crow Reservations. Charpentier has presented at state, regional, and national education conferences, most recently at the Native American Student Advocacy Institute (NASAI) on “Creating a College-Going Culture.”


David Charpentier