Freedom of Speech

In this lesson, students examine the historical context and the drafting of the First Amendment by examining the motivations of the founding generation. Students will also examine various types of “speech,” such as symbolic speech, hate speech, and political speech, to address the scope of protections promised by the First Amendment and learn that speech can only be limited when it is intended to and likely to cause imminent violence. In each instance, students will explore when the government has some authority to restrict speech; areas of consensus among scholars, judges, and citizens; the strongest constitutional arguments on each side of contested issues; and U.S. Supreme Court cases that have addressed free speech rights.

Freedom of the Press

Students explore the scope and limitations of the First Amendment provision that protects freedom of the press. The lesson poses a hypothetical scenario involving student journalists handling private information. After a brief class discussion, students investigate the history, various interpretations, and modern relevance of First Amendment freedom of the press protections in the Interactive Constitution. The lesson builds on the freedom of speech lesson plan by asking students to compare and contrast the freedoms of speech and press through discussion questions including: How are speech and press related? and How are speech and press key to democratic functions?

‘Speech Is More Than Speaking’

“Speech Is More Than Speaking” is a We The Future Contest winner for Best Short Film by Jacob VanDerwerken. What is Freedom of Speech if you cannot speak? Using American Sign Language, Jacob VanDerwerken explains the First Amendment’s Freedom of Speech is not just verbal language. This video is a discussion starter for students and adults.

Grades 6-12
Foundations of Democracy
Special Needs/Language Focus

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

Freedom of Assembly: The Right to Protest

This lesson will focus on freedom of assembly, as found in the First Amendment. Students will consider the importance of the right to assemble and protest by analyzing cases where First Amendment rights were in question. Using the case National Socialist Party of America v. Village of Skokie, students will consider if the government is ever allowed to control the ability to express ideas in public because viewpoints are controversial, offensive, or painful. Students will use primary sources and Supreme Court cases to consider whether the courts made the correct decision in the National Socialist Party v. Skokie case. Students will be able to form an opinion on the essential question: Is the government ever justified to restrict the freedom to assemble?

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.

Freedom of Speech: Finding the Limits

As part of the Bill of Rights, freedom of speech is guaranteed by the Constitution, but it is not defined by it. That task is left up to the people through a representative government that makes the laws and a judicial system that interprets and applies the laws to resolve disputes. In this lesson, based on the Annenberg Classroom video “A Conversation on the Constitution: Freedom of Speech,” students gain insight into the many challenges involved in defining and protecting free speech. They also learn about principles that come from Supreme Court decisions and case law that are applied to define the limits for us today.

Grades 9-12
Foundations of Democracy
Lesson Plans

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.

Grades 6-12
Rights and Responsibilities
Lesson Plans