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Yolande’ Barker
Journalism adviser
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Lesson Plans

Introduction to the First Amendment

Introduction to the First Amendment

Yolande’ Barker of Trotwood-Madison High School in Trotwood, Ohio.

Yolande’ A. Barker
Trotwood-Madison High School
Trotwood, Ohio

Title: Introduction to First Amendment

Description of Class

I teach on a 90-minute A/B block. I see my students every other day. Blocking allows plenty of time for cooperative learning. My class is the only journalism elective. Therefore, what I teach is a basic introduction to the First Amendment. This lesson is completed in five days


  • Knowledge-Students will gain a basic understanding of the First Amendment.
  • Recognition- Students will recognize the benefits, and everyday representation of the five freedoms.
  • Expression-Students will express orally, and in writing their understanding of the First Amendment.


Activity 1

  • BELLWORK: Students are given five minutes to respond to this question:
    • What are the most important 42 words in American history? (Students usually respond with “Declaration of Independence”, “Emancipation Proclamation”)
    • After the time is completed, students will see the First Amendment glaring on the overhead!
    • Students are then broken up for a group excercise.
      • Roles are given to ensure that all members participate.
      • The recorder will write all responses from the group, the reporter will speak for the group at the appointed time and the timekeeper does just that.
      • In their group, students will Select one of the five freedoms written on an index card.
      • They must first write what their group thinks their freedom means, and provide examples. (Time limit: 2-3 minutes.)
      • They are then given their explanation of what their freedom means.
      • The recorder will read the explanation to the group.
      • The reporter will then report to what their group discussed about each freedom and their interpretations.
    • History of the First Amendment- Why it is important? LECTURE TIME!
    • Power Point- A world with no First Amendment- I have put together a collection of student art work and pictures that represent America without the First Amendment.
    • First assignment – Students are to memorize and present the First Amendment in a creative way – a song, rap, or a short skit. They are given a week to memorize.

Activity 2

  • When the students enter the room, I have the song “Hero” on by Mariah Carey.
  • BELL WORK: Discuss the qualities of a hero.
  • Hero Activity: Pictures are posted at different stations in the room. Students are to go to each station and define how each person qualifies as a hero. The pictures are of the following people:
    • Martin Luther King
    • Rosa Parks
    • John F. Kennedy
    • Cesar Chavez
    • A mirror (themselves)
    • Gandhi
    • Mother Theresa
  • Students then pair with another person and talk about those heroes. (15 minutes)
  • “Becoming a First Amendment Hero Creed”
    • Briefly discuss what is a creed. (Not the musical group, I quip)
    • Then I read the creed to the students.
    • Students are instructed to write the creed.
    • “Becoming a First Amendment Hero Creed”- by Yolande’ A. Barker
      • I understand the freedoms guaranteed under the First Amendment.
      • I recognize the benefits and will exercise and defend my rights under the First Amendment whenever needed
    • I then give examples from everyday life that show how one begins the process becoming a First Amendment Hero.
      • Shawn Patrick started a newspaper for young minorities in his community. (Freedom of the Press)
      • Sharita wore a green armband to denounce the mistreatment of Haitian refugees. (Freedom of Speech)
      • Students at Trompton High responded to an editorial that cast a shadow on the bleak future of teens today. (Freedom of the Press)
      • Sonia researched information on the Internet for her story. (Freedom of the Press)
  • Assignment – Create a collage of newspaper or magazine clippings that are example of the five freedoms guaranteed under the First Amendment.

Activity 3

  • BELLWORK: First Amendment quote. Respond to the quote (You supply your own.). (There are lots of First Amendment quotes out there. One excellent source for them is The Freedom Forum’s First Amendment calendar, which has 365 of them. The calendars are cheap. Click here to find out more/order.)
  • Creed – All students will recite the creed.
  • Collage – Students will present their collages.
  • Students are given time to practice for their First Amendment presentation.

Activity 4

  • BELLWORK – First Amendment quote. Respond to the quote.
  • Students give their creative presentations to the class.
  • Teacher reads a history of Ida Tarbell. (The one at this link is impressive, but you can use your own, of course.)
  • Students write a response to the reading about Tarbell.
  • Give students their “First Amendment Express” Card.
    • First Amendment Express Card: I just created this card as a business card. I typed the First Amendment on the card and had the card laminated.
    • The students really get a kick out of this.


  • Class presentations and participation in classroom discussions.


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