Lesson Plan: First Amendment 101

A step-by-step guide to teaching this article in your classroom


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• Include the article as part of a discussion of America’s founding documents.

• Read this article as part of a discussion on the rights and responsibilities of U.S. citizens.

Before Reading


Pose this essential question to the class: When does the U.S. government have the right to restrict people’s freedoms? Then watch the video “Free Speech—and Its Limits” at junior.scholastic.com. As a class, discuss limits on the right to free speech as guaranteed by the First Amendment.


Provide groups of students with the text of the First Amendment on a large sheet of chart paper. Instruct each group to write questions and comments related to the amendment, then respond in writing to each other’s thoughts and questions. The interaction should take place entirely on paper, without speaking.

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Read & Analyze


Have students read the article on their own, writing down any comments or questions.


Have students write their answers to each question, or use these prompts to guide a discussion.

• CITING TEXTUAL EVIDENCE: What rights are guaranteed by the First Amendment?
(The First Amendment guarantees Americans’ freedom of speech, religion, and the press, as well as the right to assemble peacefully and to petition the government for change.)

• CAUSE AND EFFECT: Why did the Framers add the Bill of Rights?
(Some of the Framers were worried that the Constitution didn’t guarantee Americans’ individual freedoms. They wanted to make sure that the new government they had created didn’t overstep its bounds.)

• DRAWING CONCLUSIONS: According to the article, how does the First Amendment apply to kids?
(Answers will vary but may include that First Amendment rights are limited for kids. Some examples include limits within public schools, such as prohibitions on certain items of clothing or the right of local governments to impose curfews—despite First Amendment protections of the right to assemble.)

• CLOSE READING: Based on the article, why doesn’t the First Amendment prevent Facebook or other social media companies from banning certain users?
(First Amendment rules apply only to the government or government institutions—such as public schools—not to private companies like Facebook or Snapchat. That means it’s legal for social media companies to ban users.)

• DRAWING CONCLUSIONS: Based on what you read in the article, what role do you think the Supreme Court plays in applying the First Amendment?
(Answers will vary but may include that when a conflict arises over an application of the First Amendment, it may result in a legal case that reaches the Supreme Court. The justices ultimately decide how the First Amendment should be applied.)

• MAKING INFERENCES: The Supreme Court has heard more than 200 cases related to the First Amendment. Why do you think it has agreed to hear so many?
(Since the First Amendment was drafted in 1791, many questions have arisen over the protections it guarantees. It’s up to the Supreme Court to decide how those protections can be applied in the real world. New questions arise with each new era, like issues today regarding social media.)

Extend & Assess

Find out how well students understood the article by assigning the skills sheet Test Prep: Know the News—First Amendment 101. Go over the answers as a class.

Assign the skills sheet Analyzing a Primary Source: Tinker v. Des Moines, which includes an excerpt from the landmark 1969 Supreme Court case that’s widely considered the most important school-related First Amendment ruling.

Divide students into five groups, and assign each group one of the freedoms protected by the First Amendment. Each group should create a scenario that would test the limits of its assigned freedom and present it to the class. Students should then decide whether the scenario represents a violation of First Amendment rights. They should use evidence from the article to support their points of view.

Ask students to consider the section “Does freedom of the press allow the media to write or air whatever it wants?” Ask students to consider how freedom of speech and the press applies to bloggers or social media users today. Discuss what this means for readers and viewers, and the need to carefully evaluate sources.

Ask students to consider which of the five First Amendment freedoms is most important. In different areas of the room, place a sheet of chart paper with a statement claiming the superiority of each of the freedoms. Instruct students to choose the freedom they think is most important, then have them write a piece of evidence to support their point of view on the chart paper. Each group should then choose the piece of evidence that best supports its claim and present its argument to the class.


Lower Level Divide students into small groups to read each section of the article aloud. Have students pause after each section to independently write a two- to threesentence summary of it. Have a few students share their summaries with the group to ensure comprehension before moving on to the other sections.

Higher Level Have students research other Supreme Court cases that deal with the First Amendment. Instruct students to look for common principles that are used to clarify First Amendment freedoms.

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