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.

Grades 9-12
Foundations of Democracy
Lesson Plans

Respecting Freedom of Speech

In the course of this lesson, students will consider the point where respect and freedom of expression intersect. For homework the night before, students are asked to review the language of the First Amendment, as well as examine their definition of respect by responding to a writing prompt. The next day, students are asked to consider five controversial instances of “free speech” and participate in a discussion that attempts to draw the distinction between: private versus government action regarding speech; rights of the speakers and rights of the listener; and right to free speech and responsibility to act or speak with respect. What role does freedom of expression play in maintaining a free and open society?

Free to be You: Grades 6-8

This lesson is designed to be used in conjunction with the National Constitution Center’s Free to be You show, which is available as part of themed museum packages for groups and the Traveling History & Civics Program for schools.

Together, they help students understand how the First Amendment establishes five key freedoms of expression for Americans: freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom to assemble peacefully, and freedom to petition the government.

Free to be You: Grades 9-12

This lesson is designed to be used in conjunction with the National Constitution Center’s Free to be You show, which is available as part of themed museum packages for groups and the Traveling History & Civics Program for schools.

Together, they help students understand how the First Amendment establishes five key freedoms of expression for Americans: freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom to assemble peacefully, and freedom to petition the government.

The Great Awakening

This short video examines the flurry of religious expression which spread throughout the colonies during the 1740’s and 1750’s. Led by individuals such as George Whitfield and Jonathan Edwards, the Great Awakening cut across racial, class, and geographic barriers to create an incipient sense of nationalism. Professor Jeffry Morrison contends that the popular religiosity of this movement contributed directly to the popular constitutionalism of the 1770’s.

Grades 11, 12
Foundations of Democracy
Video

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.