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

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

Birth of American Democracy: Discourse, Debate and Compromise

In this exploration of American democracy students will follow the path to representative government by analyzing the tradition of discourse, debate, and compromise from Jamestown to Williamsburg and Philadelphia and finally to Washington. Students will determine the importance of debate and compromise for the development of a government by and for the people and also identify strategies for making their voices heard in government today.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans
  • Subject: Foundations of Democracy
  • Grades: 7, 8, 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

The Amendments That Got Away

Students explore the constitutional amendment process, learn about three amendments that were not ratified, and simulate a state-level ratification process. The lesson fits into a variety of courses, including government, law, civics and history.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans
  • Subject: Foundations of Democracy
  • Grades: 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

The Supremacy Clause

Tension between the states and the federal government has been a constant throughout U.S. history. This video explores the supremacy clause in Article VI of the Constitution and key moments in the power struggle, including the landmark case McCulloch v. Maryland. In McCulloch, Chief Justice John Marshall wrote that the supremacy clause unequivocally states that the “Constitution, and the Laws of the United States … shall be the supreme Law of the Land.”

  • Resource Type: Video
  • Subject: Foundations of Democracy
  • Grades: 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

First Amendment: Speech

When does the First Amendment allow the government to limit speech? Many Americans struggle with understanding the language and subsequent interpretation of the Constitution, especially when it comes to the rights encapsulated in the First Amendment. While many Americans can agree that speech should be protected, there are disagreements over when, where, and how speech should be limited or restricted. This lesson encourages students to examine their own assumptions and to deepen their understanding of current accepted interpretation of speech rights under the First Amendment, including when and where speech is protected and/or limited. It should reinforce the robustness of the First Amendment protections of speech.

  • Resource Type: Lesson Plans
  • Subject: Foundations of Democracy
  • Grades: 11, 12