Constitution Day lessons and activities, 2014
by Lori Keekley
The Scholastic Press Rights Commission works to provide information and resources on legal and ethical issues to journalism students, teachers and administrators. SPRC members also work to promote the First Amendment rights of students across the nation, and is a commission of the Journalism Education Association.
We designed our Constitution Day lesson plans to help students celebrate the Constitution and Bill of Rights, as mandated by Congress. Legislation requires schools to offer lessons on the Constitution and how it affects all Americans. Our lesson plans emphasize the First Amendment and particularly the freedoms of speech and the press.
Constitution Day is Sept. 17, and you might want to work these lessons into that timeframe. Be sure to post what you’re doing to celebrate and honor Constitution Day using #CD2014. One randomly selected post will win a $25 gift certificate to the JEA bookstore. The winning contribution will be announced at 9:17 p.m. (CST) Sept. 17. We can’t wait to see your students learning or celebrating Constitution Day. Multiple contributions are encouraged — and, yes, it increases your chances of winning.
• How much information is enough. Examining Explainers: This lesson questions if the concept of “All you need to know about X” is bad for journalism. Students will examine the role coverage cliche plays in the media. Students also will draft a policy concerning this type of coverage.
• Evaluating journalistic content examines various approaches in seeking the most complete way to tell a story, or the perfect story. It also examines the ingredients of the perfect, most comprehensive story. Discussion of ethical issues and news principles and judgment also are included.
• Takedown demands lesson addresses how to handle takedown requests. Students will work through two scenarios and then create a takedown request policy.
• Considering online comments discusses whether online comments should be allowed. If they are allowed, then should they be allowed without review. Some discussion involving the forum concept is included. Students will create policy guidelines as well.
• Taking your student media online involves considering whether or not to take your student media online? This lesson will examine areas students should explore prior to transitioning to online. While in groups, students create one or more approaches to inform others about why taking student media online is important. This should result in a workable Action Plan models and guidelines for ethical and staff manuals.
• Is print dead evaluates the question “Is print dead.” Students will hypothesize on the future of print journalism as we know it. They will then create posters and respond to the posters of others.
• The censorship lesson and case study examines the censorship of Fond du Lac High School’s by administration after the publishing of an article on a rape culture at the school. Students examine the application of the First Amendment to high school students and evaluate and hypothesize what they might do if faced with a similar situation.
• What is freedom of the press promotes discussion of what the First Amendment defines as free speech and press in relation to the events concerning the use of the word “Redskin” at Neshaminy School District. Students will examine several articles and discuss key questions. (*Editor’s note: We are using the word “Redskin” in this context to explain fully what is at issue.)
• Application of libel law investigates the Jesse Ventura’s successful libel suit against Chris Kyle, who wrote the book “American Sniper.” Students examine the basic tenets and defenses of libel. Students also will examine how the First Amendment plays a role libel law.
Please send any feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to hear from you!
For JEA’s Scholastic Press Rights Commission and the Constitution Day Committee
Constitution Day Committee
John Bowen, MJE, Kent State University (OH)
Cyndi Crothers-Hyatt, CJE, Conestoga High School (PA)
Lori Keekley, MJE, St. Louis Park High School (MN)
Jeff Kocur, CJE, Hopkins High School (MN)
You still have access to past Constitution Day materials:
• 2013 materials
• 2012 materials, part 1
• 2012 materials, part 2
• 2011 materials