Introducing the First Amendment

Students will inductively discover the First Amendment by reading and analyzing newspapers. They will discuss various circumstances involving the First Amendment, and so understand that in certain instances – libel, publication of national secrets, etc. – there is a limit to the freedoms expressed in the First Amendment.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit)
  • Subject: Rights and Responsibilities
  • Grades: 4, 5, 6

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

Constitution Day

Make sure you have the resources you need to explore the Constitution with your class for Constitution Day! Check out our featured Constitution Day 2015 lesson plan “The Constitutional Convention” from Documents of Freedom – or utilize many of our other Constitution related lesson plans. We have complete classroom lessons for both middle school and high school classes that are sure to engage your students!

  • Resource Type: Books, ESL Appropriate, ESL Materials, Essays, Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit), Primary Sources
  • Subject: Foundations of Democracy
  • Grades: 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

First Amendment: Speech

When does the First Amendment allow the government to limit speech? Many Americans struggle with understanding the language and subsequent interpretation of the Constitution, especially when it comes to the rights encapsulated in the First Amendment. While many Americans can agree that speech should be protected, there are disagreements over when, where, and how speech should be limited or restricted. This lesson encourages students to examine their own assumptions and to deepen their understanding of current accepted interpretation of speech rights under the First Amendment, including when and where speech is protected and/or limited. It should reinforce the robustness of the First Amendment protections of speech.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans
  • Subject: Foundations of Democracy
  • Grades: 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

Constitution Homepage on DocsTeach.org

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

Civil Disobedience

Civil disobedience is an active refusal to obey specific demands or laws of a government. Throughout the history of the United States, many Americans have employed civil disobedience as a form of political activism in order to change society. The Bill of Rights Institute provides lessons and historical examples of the origins and instances of this movement in American history.

  • Resource Type: Books, Editorial Cartoons, ESL Appropriate, ESL Materials, Essays, Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit), Photography, Primary Sources, Research (Digests of Primary Sources)
  • Subject: Rights and Responsibilities
  • Grades: 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12