Realizing the Dream Today

Students will analyze a political cartoon depicting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the title of his famous speech, “I Have a Dream.” Discussion of the meaning of the cartoon leads into a more general conversation about rights and equality.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit)
  • Subject: Legislative Branch/Congress
  • Grades: 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

The March on Washington

This year marks the 50th anniversary of one of the most historic moments in United States history – the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. On August 28, 1963, approximately 250,000 people participated in the march, which is considered to be one of the largest peaceful political rallies for human rights in history. Among other events, the march participants gathered at the Lincoln Memorial to hear Martin Luther King Jr. deliver his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit), Photography, Primary Sources, Research (Digests of Primary Sources), Video
  • Subject: Rights and Responsibilities
  • Grades: 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Evaluating Election Ads

In this activity, students examine some of the techniques political campaigns use in ads to persuade voters, including assertions of fact and appeal to emotion. Students evaluate these techniques over time by comparing and contrasting historic and contemporary political ads.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans, Media
  • Subject: Media Literacy
  • Grades: 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

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

Close Reading Activity for the Gettysburg Address

The Gettysburg Address has been memorized, recited, and admired. Countless readers have discussed its rhetorical devices, literary merit, and political reception. But few have attended to the thought of Lincoln’s speech and the deeper purposes that it serves. Students will be able to: understand the meaning and central ideas of the Gettysburg Address; cite textual evidence to analyze a primary source; examine the structure of a primary source text; memorize an important historical speech.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans, Primary Sources
  • Subject: Citizenship
  • Grades: 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

Making Law: A Legislative Simulation

This lesson is designed to give insights into the difficult decisions faced by legislators and to introduce students to one of the ways in which citizens can provide input to the legislative process. The lesson opens with analysis of a political cartoon. Students then take part in a simulated legislative hearing on the proposed constitutional amendment to ban flag burning.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit)
  • Subject: Legislative Branch/Congress
  • Grades: 5, 6, 7, 8

From Provocative to Productive: Teaching Controversial Topics

Get first steps for creating a respectful yet vibrant environment for students to explore diverse ideas on controversial topics, from politics to profanity, religion to racism. Four guidelines and a debate leader checklist provide a foundation for those seeking to steer productive conversations about controversial subjects.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans, Modules (Teaching Unit)
  • Subject: Foundations of Democracy
  • Grades: 8, 9, 10, 11, 12