Perseverance & the Bill of Rights

The National Constitution Center created an extensive lesson plan for middle and high school teachers about perseverance and the First Amendment.  

The lesson plan familiarizes students with the background and interpretation of the right to petition and assemble as protected by the First Amendment — and teaches them about their own powers in exercising their rights of protest.  By considering past examples students come to understand why the rights of protest are important and why they should be protected.

How do you use it?

The “Perseverance and the Bill of Rights” lesson plan is quite structured, clearly showing a teacher how to present the information and issues.  

It explains relevant historical background information, prompts teachers to check for accuracy during group discussions, and provides a focus through key words (example: "perseverance") and leading questions that allow the students to understand the value of the First Amendment.  

Included recommended assignments allow students to assess the relevance of the right to petition and assembly throughout history and in their own lives.  For example, students are encouraged in one assignment to go into more depth on the issues by writing an editorial advocating their position on a current political issue.  This would be a good homework project for teachers to assign following a judge's presentation to the students.

Who is the audience?

This lesson plan is geared to a high school or even college-aged audience.  

The amount of analysis students are prompted to do, as well as the topics themselves (e.g. "pro-choice") are advanced for a middle school audience to grasp.

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. Respecting Freedom of Speech  Lesson Plan from the Bill of Rights Institute, via the National Constitution Center (M, H)  
  9. Supreme Decision  Game from iCivics (M, H) 
  10. The First and Fourteenth Amendments  Lesson Plan from Channel One (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.