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2017 Constitution Day lessons

2017 Constitution Day lessons
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Constitution Day 2017 is approaching, and several members of the Scholastic Press Rights Committee have come together to provide you with materials to help your students understand their rights and responsibilities. These lessons provide particular focus on the First Amendment and the freedom of speech in general, but they would be appropriate and effective in any class that touches on issues related to history, the Constitution, citizenship or journalism.

Since Constitution Day (Sept. 17) is on a Sunday this year, we’d suggest celebrating on the following Monday. For a quick preview of this year’s lessons, feel free to watch this video. Links are also provided, below, to the new materials as well as lessons from previous years that might be particularly useful.

This year’s lessons:

First Amendment School Dialogue, by Jeff Kocur: Guide your students through a class-sized (or whole-school) dialogue about the five freedoms of the First Amendment. Students will identify and evaluate the impact of the First Amendment in their own lives and the lives of others.

The Importance of an Independent and Active Press, by Matthew Smith: Expose students to the many possible benefits of independent media in a democracy through quotes and video excerpts of world leaders espousing the necessity of a free press. Students will evaluate and discuss their own reaction to these arguments.

Introduction to News Literacy, by Kristin Taylor: The freedom of speech and of the press come with responsibilities, too, and this lesson provides materials for recognizing different types of news media and coverage. Students will examine the credibility of news sources as well as examine their own media habits in order to beef up their news diets and avoid “fake” news.

What’s in Your State Press Law?, by John Bowen and Lori Keekley: As New Voices laws spread across the country to protect student journalists, help your students understand what their state does or does not cover when it comes to student press rights. Students will examine their own law and create a dialogue with stakeholders about the benefits of protecting student publications.

Sharing Your State Law with Others, by John Bowen and Lori Keekley: State laws protecting student press rights mean nothing if students, administrators, school boards and others don’t know what they mean or how they impact the community. For this lesson, students will create an action plan for the various groups in their community about the state legislation.

Previous lessons:

Materials from previous years are obviously still available and relevant. The links, below, take you to the full list of lessons from each year, but we’ve also provided a quick suggestion of a lesson from that year that might work particularly well with the new batch we created.

2016 (Check out the lesson on exploring and discussing the gray area between political correctness and free speech.)

2015 (Check out the Constitution of the United States Crossword for a quick hit.)

2014 (Check out the lesson asking students to evaluate what to do when people ask them to remove content already published or posted in a student publication.)

2013 (Check out these materials forcing students to evaluate the ethical considerations involved when stories or information could be highly controversial or harmful.)

Feel free to send any feedback or questions to Matthew Smith (matthewssmith17@gmail.com) or Jeff Kocur (jeffreykocur@gmail.com)

Constitution Day Committee

John Bowen, MJE, Kent State University (OH)

Lori Keekley, MJE, St. Louis Park High School (MN)

Jeff Kocur, CJE, Hopkins High School (MN)

Matthew Smith, CJE, Fond du Lac High School (WI)

Kristin Taylor, CJE, The Archer School for Girls (CA)

 

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