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.

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

60-Second Civics Podcasts

60-Second Civics is a daily podcast that provides a quick and convenient way for listeners to learn about our nation’s government, the Constitution, and our history. The podcast explores themes related to civics and government, the constitutional issues behind the headlines, and the people and ideas that formed our nation’s history and government. The show’s content is primarily derived from the Center for Civic Education’s education for democracy curricula, including We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution, Foundations of Democracy, and Elements of Democracy. It’s easy to subscribe! Listen on iTunes or Stitcher or subscribe via RSS.

  • Resource Type: Audio
  • Subject: Foundations of Democracy
  • Grades: 9, 10, 11, 12

Habeas Corpus: The Guantanamo Cases

One of our oldest human rights, habeas corpus safeguards individual freedom by preventing unlawful or arbitrary imprisonment. This documentary examines habeas corpus and the separation of powers in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks as the Supreme Court tried to strike a balance between the president’s duty to protect the nation and the constitutional protection of civil liberties in four major Guantanamo Bay cases: Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, Rasul v. Bush, Hamdan v. Rumsfeld and Boumediene v. Bush.

Closed captions available in English and Spanish.

  • Resource Type: Media, Video
  • Subject: History, Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
  • Grades: 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

The Constitutional Convention of 1787

In this unit, students will examine the roles that key American founders played in creating the Constitution, and the challenges they faced in the process. They will learn why many Americans in the 1780s believed that reforms to the Articles of Confederation were necessary, and the steps taken to authorize the 1787 Convention in Philadelphia. They will become familiar with the main issues that divided delegates at the Convention, particularly the questions of representation in Congress and the office of the presidency. Finally, they will see how a spirit of compromise, in the end, was necessary for the Convention to fulfill its task of improving the American political system.

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

Redistricting & Gerrymandering Lesson Plan

In this lesson, students will learn how state legislatures and governors can manipulate the redistricting process to gain an advantage for their party in the U.S. House of Representatives and state legislatures. Students will learn what constitutes gerrymandering and the typical types of gerrymandering used. Students will role play state legislators and collaborate to draw both gerrymandered and not gerrymandered districts. Students will consider the foundational redistricting case Baker v. Carr (1962) and classify arguments made in the case. In addition, students will evaluate the proper role of the Supreme Court in state redistricting cases. 

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans
  • Subject: Voting, Elections, Politics
  • Grades: 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Mini-Moot Courts Resource Bundle and Video

A moot court is a role-play of an appeals court or Supreme Court hearing. The court is asked to rule on a lower court’s decision. No witnesses are called, nor are the basic facts in a case disputed. Arguments are prepared and presented on a legal question (e.g., the constitutionality of a law or government action or the interpretation of a federal statute). Moot courts are an effective strategy for focusing student attention on underlying legal principles and concepts of justice.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans, Professional Development
  • Subject: Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
  • Grades: 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Take a Stand Resource Bundle and Video

In the “Take a Stand” activity, students engage in critical thinking and conversation around contested public issue statements. Instructors choose a public issue statement and students take a stand along the continuum based on their claim about the issue.  

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

Deliberation Resource Bundle and Video

Deliberations allow teachers to help students cooperatively discuss contested political issues by carefully considering multiple perspectives and searching for consensus. Deliberations help students develop a deeper understanding of issues, engage in critical thinking, make decisions based on evidence and logic, respect others’ points of view, and identify multiple perspectives associated with the Deliberation topic. 

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