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

You Can’t Say That: In My Opinion

Apply what you learned about constitutional exceptions to the First Amendment by studying a modern situations. Be sure to summarize the facts of the situation and then present your opinion about whether the actions of the individual in the scenario were protected by the First Amendment. If you disagree with the court, school or law enforcement’s decision, be sure to explain why you disagree.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans
  • Subject: Rights and Responsibilities
  • Grades: 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Bill of Rights

The Bill of Rights is on permanent display at the National Archives in Washington, DC. This original joint resolution of Congress proposed 12 amendments to the United States Constitution, but only 10 were ratified. Added to the Constitution in 1791 as the first 10 amendments, the Bill of Rights explicitly protected freedom of speech, of the press, of religion, and of assembly, among many other rights.

  • Resource Type: Primary Sources
  • Subject: Rights and Responsibilities
  • Grades: 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 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 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

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

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

The Suffrage and the Civil Rights Reform Movements

This short comparative analysis activity involves comparing and contrasting two images of marches for freedom: a 1917 a Bastille Day march for women’s suffrage, and the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Students will consider the similarities and differences between these two images and hypothesize what major differences these photos might imply about the two social reform movements.

  • Resource Type: Photography, Primary Sources
  • Subject: Voting, Elections, Politics
  • 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