Free Speech Essentials

Do your students know what they’re free to say online? At school? On a public street corner? From censorship to cyberbullying, the First Amendment and the freedoms it protects are as hotly contested as ever. This EDCollection explores 16 free speech debates ranging from the founding of our nation to recent headlines to illustrate what free speech actually means, where it comes from, and how far it can go. Whether you’re a social studies teacher looking for a complete unit or an English teacher looking to spend a single class period on free expression, there’s something for everyone. Free registration required.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit), Primary Sources
  • Subject: Foundations of Democracy
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12

Government Speech Under the First Amendment

This lesson teaches students, through a simulation related to government-sponsored Confederate monuments, about the government-speech doctrine under the First Amendment. In particular, this lesson aims to (1) introduce students to the issue of government speech; (2) teach the doctrine; (3) apply the doctrine in a contemporary context; and (4) critically analyze the doctrine.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans
  • Subject: Foundations of Democracy
  • Grades: 6, 7, 8, 9

The Sedition Act: Certain Crimes Against the United States

The Sedition Act of 1798 passed during John Adam’s administration by the Federalist Party touched off a lively debate about the right of free speech. It also presented an early test case to the citizens and government of the United States. In times of war or imminent danger, how do you balance the need for security with the rights of individuals? How can partisan politics affect the process of shaping security policies?

  • Resource Type: Essays, Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit)
  • Subject: Foundations of Democracy
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12

Norman Rockwell, Freedom of Speech—Know It When You See It

This lesson plan highlights the importance of First Amendment rights by examining Norman Rockwell’s painting of The Four Freedoms. Students discover the First Amendment in action as they explore their own community and country through newspapers, art, and role playing.

  • Resource Type: Essays, Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit)
  • Subject: Foundations of Democracy
  • Grades: 6, 7, 8

The Press and the Civil Rights Movement

Civil rights leaders effectively used the First Amendment and the press to expose the injustices of racial segregation. Reporters who covered the civil rights struggle give up close and personal accounts. Learn more about the First Amendment’s power to bring about profound social change and the role and challenges a free press embraces when tackling controversial issues.

  • Resource Type: Closed Captions, Lesson Plans, Video
  • Subject: Rights and Responsibilities
  • Grades: 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Making a Change: The First Amendment and the Civil Rights Movement

Delve into hundreds of historical newspapers, videos, photographs and more to find out how the five freedoms empowered people fighting for change — and those fighting against it. Topics include: the history of the American civil rights movement, the relationship between the movement and the news media, the evolution and application of First Amendment freedoms, bias in the news, civic engagement and more.

  • Resource Type: Audio, Closed Captions, Interactives, Media, Primary Sources, Special Needs/Language Focus, Timelines, Video
  • Subject: Rights and Responsibilities
  • Grades: 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Women, Their Rights and Nothing Less: The First Amendment and the Women’s Suffrage Movement

Use this map to explore how the women’s suffrage movement — and the people who opposed it — tried to influence public opinion. Explore artifacts from billboards and cards to buttons and cartoons. You’ll uncover the wide array of tools and tactics each side used to spread its message, and you’ll see how geography and other factors shaped the form and content of their communication.

  • Resource Type: Audio, Closed Captions, Interactives, Lesson Plans, Media, Modules (Teaching Unit), Primary Sources, Timelines, Video
  • Subject: Rights and Responsibilities
  • Grades: 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12