The First & Fourteenth Amendments

The First and Fourteenth Amendmentsdownloadable lesson plan gives a judge or teacher an outline to facilitate a collaborative, intellectual discussion on the texts of the two Amendments. The lesson plan is one of a series of downloadable lesson plans on the First Amendment, which is turn is part of a larger website from Channel One, called:  "Five Freedoms:  First Amendment."  (see the graphic to the left)

In the lesson plan, the First Amendment discussion is set up to focus on a number of key issues articulated in the online material:

•  The First Amendment affirms the freedom of the individual.

•  Free expression is the foundation — the cornerstone — of democracy.

•  The First Amendment tells the government to keep its “hands off” an individual's religion, ideas, and ability to express him or herself.

•  Other people have rights, too. Because the First Amendment belongs to everyone — to each individual — it encourages individuals to respect the right of others to hold their viewpoints and religious beliefs.  When rights collide, government must balance them.

•  The First Amendment helps individuals make choices. In the 'marketplace of ideas,' they may choose which views to support and which ones to reject. When all ideas are allowed to flourish, individuals may decide what ideas and concepts to question, embrace or reject. The antidote to distasteful or hateful speech is not censorship, but more speech.

The intent of this lesson plan is to make students learn and care about the amendments.  Because students are asked to consider how the amendments affect them, that process can in turn result in students becoming more interested in government.

How do you use it?

A judge or teacher would facilitate a discussion through open-ended questions about a text. The "seminar" process includes three steps: it prepares students for what they will learn, helps them learn it, and reviews what they learned. The handout (not pictured) provides the opening, core, and closing questions (in an order to facilitate the discussion), and provides ideas for reflection as well as follow-up assignments.

This lesson plan is light on external needs. With only the texts of the First and Fourteen Amendment required, it is set up to be a simple discussion and breakdown of those amendments. 

The simple handout is part of a robust website (see the image of the Five Freedom's website on this page) that can be visited for additional materials such as videos, other recommended activities and related documents and handouts.

Who is the audience?

The First and Fourteenth Amendment lesson plan is geared toward use in a high school or college classroom.  With some adaptations the lesson plan could be used for middle schoolers.

What other resources will complement this?

  1. 9/11 and the Constitution  Lesson plans from the Center for Civic Education (M, H)  
  2. A Day in the Life  Interactive "game" from (M, H)
  3. Balancing Free Speech and Fair Trial   Lesson Plan from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (H)
  4. Courts in the Classroom  Videos from the Judicial Council of California and the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (P, M H)
  5. Interpreting the Constitution: What Does That Mean?  Lesson Plan from iCivics (H)
  6. Korematsu and Civil Liberties  Video from the Leonore Annenberg Institute for Civics (H, A)
  7. One Person, One Vote  Video and lesson plan from the Leonore Annenberg Institute for Civics (H, A)
  8. Perseverance and the Bill of Rights  Lesson plan from the Bill of Rights Institute, via the National Constitution Center (M, H)  
  9. Respecting Freedom of Speech  Lesson Plan from the Bill of Rights Institute, via the National Constitution Center (M, H)  
  10. Supreme Decision  Game from iCivics (M, H) 
  11. The Story of the Bill of Rights  Videos and game from the Leonore Annenberg Institute for Civics (M, H)
  12. Yick Wo and the Equal Protection Clause  Video from the Leonore Annenberg Institute for Civics (H, A)

Additional Recommended Resources Off-Site Links
  1. A Constitutional Timeline
    • Multi-aged audience timeline that highlights key dates in history of Constitution, with links to text, audio and video clips. From National Constitution Center's Constitution Day site. 
  2. Interactive Constitution
    • Multi-aged audience site that enables users to search Constitution by keyword or topic, with access to explanatory materials throughout. From National Constitution Center.   
  3. The Annenberg Guide to the United States Constitution
    • Multi-aged audience site that lists the text of each section of every article in the Constitution, and provides explanation of what the text means in plain language.  From the Leonore Annenberg Institute of Civics. 
  4. Understanding the Federal Courts
    • Multi-aged online textbook-type document that includes sections on Article III, the Federal Court system and the geographical boundaries of the Courts of Appeal and the District Courts, the code of conduct for judges, juror qualifications, exemptions and terms of service, as well as categories of bankruptcy cases.  From the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts.