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Free Speech Week lesson:
What does the First Amendment protect



What does the First Amendment protect?


This lesson takes a look at the freedoms the First Amendment to the Constitution protects and explores what these mean to students.


  • Students will understand more about their rights.
  • Students will see how the First Amendment applies to them.
  • Students will learn the First Amendment.

Common Core State Standards:

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.9 Analyze seminal U.S. documents of historical and literary significance (e.g., Washington’s Farewell Address, the Gettysburg Address, Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms speech, King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail”), including how they address related themes and concepts.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.8 Delineate and evaluate the reasoning in seminal U.S. texts, including the application of constitutional principles and use of legal reasoning (e.g., in U.S. Supreme Court majority opinions and dissents) and the premises, purposes, and arguments in works of public advocacy (e.g., The Federalist, presidential addresses).


Length 50 – 60 minutes



  • Copies of the First Amendment for each student
  • First Amendment: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
  • White board and markers

Introduction (10 minutes)

When students enter the class, ask them to take out a sheet of paper and write down the five freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution. When they are finished, share with them the answers: region, speech, press, assembly, petition.  Discuss briefly what each of these mean.

Small Groups (15 – 20 minutes)

Break into five groups (or, depending on the size of the class, 10 groups with two groups doing each freedom) and assign each group a freedom. Ask each group to list all the ways that freedom impacts their lives. (answers will vary, but should include such things as how free speech would affect students wearing political t-shirts, free press would impact students making content decisions in student media, students wanting to make a change in school policy, etc.)

Report out (10 – 15 minutes)

Have someone from each group list his or her group’s answer on the white board. As each freedom is posted, ask others in the class to add any other ways that freedom comes into play in their lives.

Exit slips (10 minutes)

Ask students to choose one of the five freedoms they think impacts them the most and write why it’s important to them.


Challenge students to memorize the First Amendment and recite it to the class in the future. Have prizes (candy, hand-made badge, etc.) to award when they successfully repeat the 45 words of this important document.

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