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2017 Constitution Day lessons

Posted by on Aug 22, 2017 in Blog, Ethical Issues, Featured, Law and Ethics, Legal issues, Lessons, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

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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First Amendment school dialogue

Posted by on Aug 22, 2017 in Blog, Law and Ethics, Lessons, Scholastic Journalism | 0 comments

by Jeff Kocur

Title:

First Amendment school dialogue

Description

Constitution Day, for journalists, may need to start simply with recognition of the First Amendment and the five freedoms of the First Amendment. This activity will allow your school or individual classes to have a quick discussion of the First Amendment and how your students see their lives impacted by it.

Objectives:

  • Students will recognize the five freedoms of the First Amendment
  • Students will see the impact of the First Amendment on others
  • Students will show the First Amendment’s impact on their own life.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.11-12.9 Analyze seventeenth-, eighteenth-, and nineteenth-century foundational U.S. documents of historical and literary significance (including The Declaration of Independence, the Preamble to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address) for their themes, purposes, and rhetorical features.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.11-12.1.C Propel conversations by posing and responding to questions that probe reasoning and evidence; ensure a hearing for a full range of positions on a topic or issue; clarify, verify, or challenge ideas and conclusions; and promote divergent and creative perspectives.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.11-12.8 Delineate and evaluate the reasoning in seminal U.S. texts, including the application of constitutional principles and use of legal reasoning (e.g., in U.S. Supreme Court majority opinions and dissents) and the premises, purposes, and arguments in works of public advocacy (e.g., The Federalist, presidential addresses).

Length:

One lunch period (or extend the time over the course of a week during lunches)

Materials/Resources

Five Freedoms poster (make your own or print off the attached version and make it a poster)

Five Freedoms handout

Post-it Notes in five different colors (red, blue, green, yellow and purple)

Sharpie pens

Candy

First Amendment poster

Activity/lesson Step by Step

Step 1 — Preparation

Print off the Five Freedoms poster and blow it up so that you can hang it on a wall in your lunch or commons area.

Step 2 — Student input

Have your editors sit at a table during lunches with the poster, Post-it Notes, markers and a bowl of candy. Use the Google Presentation slideshow if you have a projector available or print off the five slides and laminate them for student reference.

Invite students to see the five different freedoms of the First Amendment and to choose the freedom they use the most often. Make sure they see the example sheets for the five different freedoms.

Have them choose the color of the Post-it Note that corresponds with their selection and write their name on the Post-it Note.

Post the note on the poster you’ve hung up and offer the students a piece of candy once they’ve completed the task.

Extension

Have an interview booth set up and offer the students the opportunity to share the impact one of the freedoms of the First Amendment has had on them. Here, they could go more in depth and discuss their own story and what the protections of the First Amendment mean to them.

Student media staffs also could put together a story or video that includes the results and some of the quotes from students who provided them.

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Sharing your state law with others

Posted by on Aug 22, 2017 in Blog, Law and Ethics, Lessons, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

by John Bowen and Lori Keekley

Title

Sharing your state law with others

Description

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.

Objectives

  • Students will evaluate what their state law covers and identify key points to share with others.
  • Students will research key points of their legislation, outline them and seek ways to effectively present them.
  • Students will synthesize these steps into Action Plans for sharing key points with various local communities.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.11-12.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze how an author uses and refines the meaning of a key term or terms over the course of a text (e.g., how Madison defines faction in Federalist No. 10).
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.9-10.1.D Respond thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarize points of agreement and disagreement, and, when warranted, qualify or justify their own views and understanding and make new connections in light of the evidence and reasoning presented.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.11-12.1.D Respond thoughtfully to diverse perspectives; synthesize comments, claims, and evidence made on all sides of an issue; resolve contradictions when possible; and determine what additional information or research is required to deepen the investigation or complete the task.

Length

50 minutes

Materials / resources

Computers

State Law (see list at the end of the lesson for state links)

Lesson step-by-step

Step 1. Warm up — 5 minutes

The teacher should ask the class if they had last minute questions about their state law. Discuss them as needed, or tell students they will move on create an Action Plan to sell the new state law to administrators, community and board of education.

Step 2. Large group — 5 minutes

Tell students they will create an Action Plan to convince groups, administrators, community and board of education, the value of the new state law. Students can refer to the State Law Sheet and the role play from the earlier lesson.

An Action Plan would be an outline of the arguments, process and rationale for each they would use to explain the importance of having the state law to discuss this with selected community groups. Its contents might well vary depending on the group being addressed.

Step 3. Small groups — 40 minutes

The teacher will divide the class into a group for each of the categories, administrators, community, school board, and ask students to choose one they feel most comfortable with. Remember, each group will target a different audience to inform.

Each group will appoint a team leader (a student with journalism experience or editor would be best) to lead discussion and to record role and process.

Suggested talking points would include:

  • A timeline for the presentation session and which students would present information
  • A plan for publicity to invite members of their target audience
  • Securing a place for the presentation
  • Presentation materials effective for each targeted audience
  • Research need and student responsibilities for that material
  • A script for the presentation
  • Arrangements for sound, lighting and visuals as needed
  • Plans to have publicity/reporting of the presentation

Each team would also plan for future meetings to create materials and finalize times and places. The class, with input from the teacher, would ultimately decide the timeline for presentations (most likely, though, the presentation to the board of education would come last).

Teacher note: Depending on the class composition, this lesson may take more than one day. The students may need an additional day to create the presentation.

State Laws and Codes:

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What’s in your state press law?

Posted by on Aug 22, 2017 in Blog, Law and Ethics, Legal issues, Lessons, Scholastic Journalism | 0 comments

by John Bowen and Lori Keekley

Title

What’s in your state press law?

Description

State laws protecting student press rights mean nothing if students don’t know what they cover. For this lesson, students will examine what their state law protects and what its limitations are. Students will also create a dialogue with stakeholders in order to educate them about what the bill and its impact.

Objectives

  • Students will evaluate what their state law covers
  • Students will locate and quote from their state bill
  • Students will create a dialogue to help inform other stakeholders about the bill.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.11-12.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze how an author uses and refines the meaning of a key term or terms over the course of a text (e.g., how Madison defines faction in Federalist No. 10).
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.11-12.8 Delineate and evaluate the reasoning in seminal U.S. texts, including the application of constitutional principles and use of legal reasoning (e.g., in U.S. Supreme Court majority opinions and dissents) and the premises, purposes, and arguments in works of public advocacy (e.g., The Federalist, presidential addresses).
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.9-10.1.D Respond thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarize points of agreement and disagreement, and, when warranted, qualify or justify their own views and understanding and make new connections in light of the evidence and reasoning presented.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.11-12.1.D Respond thoughtfully to diverse perspectives; synthesize comments, claims, and evidence made on all sides of an issue; resolve contradictions when possible; and determine what additional information or research is required to deepen the investigation or complete the task.

Length

50 minutes

Materials / resources

State law (pick the applicable one from those available at the end of the lesson)

Handout: State law sheet

Rubric: State law rubric

Computer

Definitions of legal terms used in various bills

Lesson step-by-step

Step 1 — Introduction (5 minutes)

Thirteen states have now passed student free expression legislation or codes. While many are similar, no one is exactly like any other.

Have students guess what 13 states have this legislation or state code.

(Teacher note — the states in which legislation has passed include: Arkansas, California, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island.)

Is your state part of this? (If it is not, have students evaluate one of the other state laws and see Extension 2).

Step 2 — Small groups (20 minutes)

Place students into small groups. Each group will need to complete the “State Law Sheet.” Teachers may need to provide hints about where to find the information either by search or accessing the New Voices USA homepage.

The teacher would also explain why it is important students create a dialogue between a student and either an administrator, school board member, angry parent, angry student or adviser about the bill. The teacher should assign each group one of these people to educate about the significance, relevance and rationale behind the laws, especially as they apply to the stakeholders.

Step 3 — Assessment (25 minutes)

Students will act out the dialogue they created concerning educating someone about the bill. Please see the rubric for point breakdown.

Differentiation

If you have advanced students, you could have students compare their state legislation with another state’s bill. Then they could write a blogpost about whether their legislation needs any changes and why.

We also recommend more than additional class or assignment time for students to work on applying what they learned about their state legislation.

Assessment

The teacher will use the assessment form to evaluate student participation.

Extension Activities

Extension 1:

Have students (in small groups) research the following court cases and reflect upon why they might be used as precedent in a New Voices law:

Tinker v. Des Moines

Bethel v. Fraser

Dean v. Utica

Miller v. California

Morse v. Frederick

The students should present background information about why the court cases laws are relevant and why precise legal language is essential for any such legislation to succeed.

Extension 2:

If your state is not included in the list of 13 states with laws, the teacher might have students use the lesson to focus on differences between two of the state’s legislation is and what should be in students’ state legislation when developed.

Students could also access the New Voices U.S. site and see their state’s status in the New Voices movement and see who to contact if they are interested in helping to pass the bill.

State Laws and Codes:

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The importance of an independent and active press

Posted by on Aug 22, 2017 in Blog, Law and Ethics, Lessons, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

by Matthew Smith

Title

The importance of an independent and active press

Description

Having a press that is independent and active enough to hold the government accountable has long been considered important for the proper functioning of a democracy. In fact, although the benefits of an active, adversarial press has come under fire, recently, many people (even public officials) have argued that a press that actively challenges public officials for the truth is a necessity for our own democracy to work at all.

This lesson provides some thoughts from public officials and others about the importance of an independent and active press and then asks students to weigh in on these perspectives and consider the state of the free press today and how important it still is and why. This lesson could be applicable in any class that discusses the press or government (including journalism, social students or English classes).

Objectives

  • Students will recognize the relationship between an independent press and the functioning of a democracy
  • Students will discuss and demonstrate the effect of an independent press on their own lives
  • Students will see the importance of the press and its being the watchdog of the government.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.11-12.1 Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 11-12 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.11-12.7 Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words in order to address a question or solve a problem.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.11-12.9 Analyze seventeenth-, eighteenth-, and nineteenth-century foundational U.S. documents of historical and literary significance (including The Declaration of Independence, the Preamble to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address) for their themes, purposes, and rhetorical features.

Length

50 minutes

Materials/Resources

Video: Importance of an Independent and Active Press

Handout: Importance of an Independent and Active Press

Prompts: Importance of an Independent and Active Press Discussion

Activity/lesson Step by Step

Step 1 — Introduction (1-2 minutes)

Briefly introduce the topic of the relationship between an independent and active press and the proper functioning of a democracy (feel free to use the language provided at the top of the “Importance of an Independent and Active Press Handout”).

Step 2 — Video (5 minutes)

Play the “Importance of an Independent and Active Press Video.”

Step 3 — Reaction (5 minutes)

Ask for some brief student reactions to the video (feel free to use any of the suggested prompts, below):

    1. How do public officials seem to feel about the press?
    2. What are some reasons given in support of a free press, even if they don’t always like what they do?
    3. What can a press (free from government control and active enough to bug public officials about things, even if it’s unpleasant) provide for citizens in a democracy?

Step 4 — Reading (5 minutes)

Pass out the “Importance of an Independent and Active Press Handout.” Ask students to read through the handful of additional views expressed for further discussion.

Step 5 — Discussion preparation (5 minutes)

Pass out the “Importance of an Independent and Active Press Discussion Prompts” and ask students to complete the front.

Step 6 — Pair or small group discussion (5 minutes)

Have students discuss/compare their answers/reactions in pairs or small groups. (Consider having groups put a “+” symbol next to the statement that the entire group mostly agrees with and a “-” symbol next to the statement the group most disagrees with and wishes to discuss in front of the class.)

Step 7 — Large group discussion (20 minutes)

Have students (and/or groups) share responses to the prompts from the handout.

(Consider calling on specific groups/students to discuss and explain the statement they put a “+” or “-” symbol next to. If some students repeatedly take the side of limiting the press or allowing government officials to stop particular debates, it would be helpful to refer back to the main points made in the quotes provided, especially in the handout. Students don’t need to come away convinced the press should be as free and/or active as possible, but they should understand and appreciate the reasons many officials/experts have given for supporting such a press, even if they don’t agree with them or believe most of the press is evil in some way. It may be especially helpful to refer back to Hannah Arendt’s passage and propose back to the students and/or class, what the danger is in citizens coming to believe that everyone is lying. What benefits can a trustworthy press provide? Why? What would it be like if there was no press at all, or if all press was owned/run by the government? These questions may help re-direct discussions if necessary.)

Step 8 — Assessment (5 minutes)

Require students to respond to the following final exit-ticket prompt on the back of the discussion prompt sheet:

    1. How important is the existence of an Independent and active press to your life, today? Explain why.

Differentiation

If time is short, you could drop either the video or handout and complete the discussion prompts and discussion with only one set of quotes.

If more background is needed by students on press rights, you may have the class view “Freedom of the Press: Crash Course Government and Politics #26” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vtpd0EbaFoQ) before this lesson.

Assessment

Skim through the “exit ticket” responses to judge understanding of the reasoning provided.

Extension

In a future class, you could further discussion by providing (anonymously) some of the responses to the exit-ticket question and asking for some additional thoughts related to those.

Students could also be asked to find one additional quote concerning the free press that they most agree (or disagree) with and then explain why. Some decent sources of additional quotes would be the following:

Article, Speaking of a Free Press, American Newspaper Association Foundation

Wiki website, Freedom of the Press

Brainy Quotes website, Free Press Quotes

Particularly if this is for a journalism class, students could be asked to evaluate their own publication and how well it has kept students informed about the local school powers (administrators, district officials, etc.) and possibly how well they have been active in holding them accountable (in an objective, truth-based manner). What are some stories (or some information) that have been missed and/or should be covered? What are some questions that should be asked of local school community leaders?

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