Teach the First Amendment

Help tomorrow’s citizens find their voice. Teach the First Amendment.

The most basic liberties guaranteed to Americans — embodied in the 45 words of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution — assure Americans a government that is responsible to its citizens and responsive to their wishes. These 45 words are as alive and important today as they were more than 200 years ago. These liberties are neither liberal nor conservative, Democratic nor Republican — they are the basis for our representative democratic form of government.

We know from studies beginning in 1997 by the nonpartisan First Amendment Center, and from studies commissioned by the Knight Foundation and others, that few adult Americans or high school students can name the individual five freedoms that make up the First Amendment.

The lesson plans below — drawn from materials prepared by the Newseum and the First Amendment Center — will draw young people into an exploration of how their freedoms began and how they operate in today’s world. Students will discuss just how far individual rights extend, examining rights in the school environment and public places. The lessons may be used in history and government, civics, language arts and journalism, art and debate classes. They may be used in sections or in their entirety. Many of these lesson plans indicate an overall goal, offer suggestions on how to teach the lesson and list additional resources and enrichment activities.

Elementary & Middle School

Social Media, the Classroom and the First Amendment
A guide for middle school and high school teachers published by the First Amendment Center and John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. View Classroom Guide.

High School

Living with Our Deepest Differences
Ten-lesson curriculum designed to help teachers educate students about religious liberty in a pluralistic society. View Lesson Plans.

More Resources

Constitution Facts
Learn more about the U.S. Constitution and your rights as a citizen.

The Bill of Rights Institute
Get free lesson plans and teaching guides to strengthen your students’ understanding of First Amendment rights.

First Amendment Center
Read about the latest First Amendment court cases, search past cases by topic, download podcasts and find expert analysis.

PBS NewsHour Extra
Get free NewsHour Extra stories written for students from PBS Kids and lesson plans based on the top domestic issues facing our country. These plans will help your students improve their analytical skills and understand the importance of civics.

National Constitution Center
The National Constitution Center is an independent, nonpartisan, and nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing public understanding of, and appreciation for, the Constitution, its history, and its contemporary relevance, through an interactive, interpretive facility within Independence National Historical Park as a program of national outreach, so that “We the People” may better secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.

Journalism Education Association
Learn about an award for public high school teachers and students who actively support and protect First Amendment rights.

American Bar Association This ABA resource for high school students discusses Freedom of Speech on the Internet. It recommends using a local attorney or judge as a resource person. The activity can span several class sessions.

ASNE Articles — Education for Journalism

ASNE Articles — First Amendment

American Bar Association Division for Public Education