Is your student in Challenge IV, preparing and writing for their Senior Thesis? Or, will your child soon enter Challenge IV and is intimidated at the prospect of writing such an intensive paper? Although Senior Thesis can be a difficult task, the rewards of this capstone project that ends students’ high school journey are abundant.
What is the Challenge IV Senior Thesis?
The Greek word thesis means “something put forth.” And the Classical Conversations Senior Thesis is an opportunity for Challenge IV students to “put forth” their ideas. Students pick any academic topic that interests them and incorporate significant and relevant ideas from across the Challenge program. They develop a persuasive thesis statement and then prove their claim in a sizable paper. Later, they present and defend their thesis before a panel in lieu of final exams. The Senior Thesis is the culmination of a student’s entire school experience in which they offer up the fruits of their labors.
As ominous as a paper of this size may sound, this project doesn’t need to be intimidating. As students work through the process of writing their papers over the course of the second semester, they have rich conversations with their Director each step of the way. In addition, they are guided by parents and chosen mentors. And, Challenge IV students follow a writing process similar to the one learned in their study of The Lost Tools of Writing in the earlier Challenge levels but adapted for older, more mature students.
Using the Five Canons of Rhetoric
Senior Thesis naturally takes students through the Five Canons of Rhetoric to create a compelling, well-researched paper. Beginning with invention, students select a topic and ask questions about it using the Five Common Topics of Dialectic to develop a claim (or thesis) to be proven. At this stage, an ANI (affirmative-negative-interesting) chart is helpful to build arguments and to select and then sort supporting evidence. Next comes arrangement, in which students solidify the vision and reinforce the direction of their papers, organizing their information and creating outlines. In the elocution stage, ideas finally hit the paper as students write and refine their first drafts. Through numerous reviews, students and advisors consider the flow of ideas, the argumentation, the style, and the mechanics of the paper. Students then write an abstract — a short, clear summary of the thesis and main ideas included in the paper. Finally, students memorize their abstracts and prepare for delivering an oral presentation and defense of their work in front of judges at a Senior Thesis defense held at their local community.
Why Write a Senior Thesis?
The benefits of writing a Senior Thesis are many. Students produce a rhetorical artifact that represents the skills and abilities gained throughout their years in the Classical Conversations programs. They demonstrate true ownership of their education by coordinating with an advisor, planning and completing a long-term project, and publicly defending their positions. Presenting their theses before a panel allows students to incorporate all three modes of persuasion: logos (logic), ethos (character), and pathos (emotion). Throughout the Challenge years, students encounter and discuss big ideas, and the Senior Thesis is a beautiful culmination of their educational experience.
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This post was originally published on January 11, 2016.