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Lesson Plans

The First Amendment: Rights and Responsibilities

Gordon Bynum of Providence Day School in Charlotte, N.C.

Gordon Bynum
Providence Day School
Charlotte, N.C.

Title: The FirstAmendment: Rights and Responsibilities

Descriptionof School and Students

Providence Day School is an independent, coeducational college preparatory school in southeast Charlotte, North Carolina. The school has 1,450 students enrolled in TK – 12 grades. In the upper school, the average class size is 17 students. Approximately 10% of the students are minorities (primarily African-American and Asian).

North Carolina State standards

  • Economics, Legal, and Political Systems
    • Competency goal 2.5 – Explain rights and freedoms available to all
      citizens of the United States.
    • Competency goal 6.6 – Analyze cases which demonstrate how the United
      States Constitution and Bill of Rights protect the rights of individuals.

Generative topics

  • First Amendment-focus on free speech and freedom of the press
  • Rights, roles and responsibilities of the press

Generative object(s)

  • Picture of Tinker and armband
    • Object used to introduce idea of various types of speech (symbols, etc.) and various locations for speech to occur (private/public, schools, etc.).
  • Students design and draw a free speech monument (see activity 2 below).
    • After students draw and discuss their own monuments, articles describing an actual free speech monument in Charlottesville, Va., will be reviewed. The monument is a free speech chalkboard which when proposed drew criticism because of the lack of limits on what could be written. This object/activity should spark discussion on whether there should be limits on speech and if so, when and where should those limits on the speech and the press be drawn.

Understanding Goals

Essential questions

  • What limits (if any) are there to free speech and a free press?
  • What responsibilities accompany our First Amendment rights?

Performances of understanding, rationale and time line

Day One

Activity 1

  • Introduce Tinker picture (generative object #1) to spark brief discussion on types of speech and locations for speech to occur.

Activity 2

  • In pairs, students will design and draw a free speech monument (generative object #2) using paper and colored pencils.
  • Pairs will present their free speech monuments.
  • Class will read articles summarizing an actual free speech monument in Charlottesville, Va., and potential problems the articles address regarding both the actual monument and a virtual “free speech chalkboard.”

Activity 3

  • Divide the class into 6 groups. Assign each group one of the following “News Flashes” from the Student Press Law Center. After reviewing the article, each group will briefly discuss whether they believe the decision in the situation properly or improperly limited free speech. The groups will then briefly summarize their specific case to the rest of the class.
  • Discuss each situation as a class after each small group has presented their individual case summary. Address essential questions of limits on speech and types of speech.

Activity 4

Activity 5: Homework

  • As homework, students will write a brief essay in which they defend, reject, or modify the following statement:
    • “The First Amendment guarantees rights that are worthless unless citizens accept the responsibilities that accompany them and accept the limitations on those rights.”


  • Activity 5 assesses student learning through a written response that addresses the essential questions.


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