The First Amendment in Public Schools includes the four lessons described below. Though the lessons in this unit build upon one another, each lesson can also be easily adapted to stand alone. Each lesson requires between one and two class periods to complete and coincides with standard forty-five minute blocks of time. Each lesson includes a rationale and objectives, and is aligned with national standards in order to facilitate integration into a variety of classrooms and courses. Each lesson ends with “Extension Activities” that provide for additional activities and projects that can be integrated into the lesson itself or used to extend the lesson once it is completed.
Lesson 1: What Is the First Amendment?
This lesson provides an opportunity for students to learn about the First Amendment and why it is important to them today. Students compare and contrast the rights provided in the First Amendment with freedoms found or not found in other countries around the world.
Lesson 2: Understanding Religious Liberty in Public Schools
The purpose of this lesson is for students to learn about their constitutional right to religious freedom in public schools. Students are introduced to the concepts behind the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause, and explore four issues specific to religious liberty in secondary public schools. Pre- and post- lesson assessments are included to evaluate student comprehension and application of concepts.
Lesson 3: Understanding Freedom of Speech and Press in Public Schools
This lesson provides students an opportunity to critically examine free speech and freedom of the press in public schools. Students are introduced to the three standards the Supreme Court employs in freedom of speech cases. They conduct a short survey to assess the beliefs of their peers and adults regarding the First Amendment rights of students, and research free speech in five areas: speech, dress codes, the Internet, student publications, and censorship/banned books.
Lesson 4: Understanding Freedom to Assemble and Freedom to Petition
The purpose of this lesson is for students to learn about the First Amendment’s guarantee of peaceful assembly and the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances. Students learn that these rights cover a large spectrum of common political practices such as protesting, marching, demonstrating, and lobbying, and apply this learning by developing a plan for organizing around a current issue of interest to them.
NOTE: It is assumed that the early history of the United States, including the origins of the Constitution and first governing practices, will be explored prior to using these lessons or else will be integrated into the lessons.