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

Introduction to the Bill of Rights

No unreasonable search and seizure. Freedom of speech. No cruel and unusual punishment. Right to trial by jury. These phrases from the Bill of Rights are often seen by students as just more information to memorize. To truly understand the importance of the protections in the Bill of Rights, students must be asked to apply and discuss the amendments. This lesson is designed to help them do just that—apply the amendments to hypothetical situations and discuss their importance.

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

Exploring the United States Constitution eBook

Each chapter connects one or more of the billions of primary source documents in the holdings of the National Archives to the principles found in the United States Constitution. These documents exemplify the workings of the three branches of the federal government as laid out in our Constitution. This eBook is available as a Multi-Touch book for iPad and Mac on iTunes, or for PC, Android devices, Mac, iPhone, iPad, or eReader with Scribd.

  • Resource Type: Modules (Teaching Unit), Primary Sources, Research (Digests of Primary Sources)
  • Subject: Federal Government
  • Grades: 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Constitution Homepage on

Locate primary sources from the holdings of the National Archives related to such topics as “checks and balances,” “representative government,” all 27 amendments, and other concepts found in the Constitution. This special home page devoted to the U.S. Constitution also features activities to share with students, such as “The Constitution at Work,” which uses primary sources to demonstrate the Constitution in action in our everyday lives.

  • Resource Type: Assessments, Audio, Editorial Cartoons, Games, Interactives, Lesson Plans, Media, Modules (Teaching Unit), Photography, Primary Sources
  • Subject: Federal Government
  • Grades: 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Lincoln and the “Writ of Liberty”

The actual right of habeas corpus is not stated anywhere in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights. The authors of these documents apparently believed that habeas corpus was such a fundamental liberty that it needed no further guarantee in writing. The only mention of the writ of habeas corpus in the Constitution relates to when it can be taken away from judges. On September 24, 1862, Lincoln issued a proclamation unprecedented in American history. He suspended the writ of liberty everywhere in the United States.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans
  • Subject: Executive Branch/Presidency
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12

Using the Media

In this lesson, students learn about the importance of the media in setting the public agenda. First, they read about and discuss how the media help set the public agenda and how citizens can influence the media and even create their own media to help change the public agenda. Then they brainstorm ideas and develop a plan to do one action using or affecting the media. Finally, they begin to implement their plan. As homework, they complete their action.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans, Timelines
  • Subject: Media Literacy
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12

45 Words

In the video accompanying this lesson plan, actor Martin Sheen narrates this story of the political struggles involved in establishing the First Amendment and early challenges to it.

  • Resource Type: Closed Captions, Descriptive Text, Lesson Plans, Media, Special Needs/Language Focus, Video
  • Subject: Foundations of Democracy
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12

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