Pages Navigation Menu

Free Speech Week lesson:
What does the First Amendment protect

Posted by on Oct 16, 2016 in Blog, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments


What does the First Amendment protect?


This lesson takes a look at the freedoms the First Amendment to the Constitution protects and explores what these mean to students.


  • Students will understand more about their rights.
  • Students will see how the First Amendment applies to them.
  • Students will learn the First Amendment.

Common Core State Standards:

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.9 Analyze seminal U.S. documents of historical and literary significance (e.g., Washington’s Farewell Address, the Gettysburg Address, Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms speech, King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail”), including how they address related themes and concepts.
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 50 – 60 minutes



  • Copies of the First Amendment for each student
  • First Amendment: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
  • White board and markers

Introduction (10 minutes)

When students enter the class, ask them to take out a sheet of paper and write down the five freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution. When they are finished, share with them the answers: region, speech, press, assembly, petition.  Discuss briefly what each of these mean.

Small Groups (15 – 20 minutes)

Break into five groups (or, depending on the size of the class, 10 groups with two groups doing each freedom) and assign each group a freedom. Ask each group to list all the ways that freedom impacts their lives. (answers will vary, but should include such things as how free speech would affect students wearing political t-shirts, free press would impact students making content decisions in student media, students wanting to make a change in school policy, etc.)

Report out (10 – 15 minutes)

Have someone from each group list his or her group’s answer on the white board. As each freedom is posted, ask others in the class to add any other ways that freedom comes into play in their lives.

Exit slips (10 minutes)

Ask students to choose one of the five freedoms they think impacts them the most and write why it’s important to them.


Challenge students to memorize the First Amendment and recite it to the class in the future. Have prizes (candy, hand-made badge, etc.) to award when they successfully repeat the 45 words of this important document.

Read More

Political Correctness and Free Speech

Posted by on Sep 5, 2016 in Blog, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

Political Correctness and Free Speech

Students examine the gray area between political correctness and free speech through peer discussion and real-world examples.


  • Students will understand the meaning and connotation of “politically correct” in different contexts.
  • Students will examine the relationship between offensive language and free speech.
  • Students will evaluate the power of language and what considerations are important when considering the offensiveness of speech.

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.RL.11-12.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.11-12.1 Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.


45-60 minutes

Materials / resources

CD Political Correctness and Free Speech Materials

  • Individual Student Statement Check
  • Group Real-Life Scenarios
  • Student Scenario Resolutions

Lesson step-by-step

(5 minutes) Begin lesson by passing out the opening sheet “’Political Correctness’ and Free Speech” to all students and explain that charges of political correctness versus free speech have heightened during the current election season and that they will be investigating the relationship between political correctness and our First Amendment free speech rights. Read the introductory paragraphs at the top of the sheet aloud (or have students read them to themselves.

(5 minutes) Have the students (individually) score their level of agreement or disagreement with the statements on the sheet. Remind them that they will be tasked with talking with other students and should be prepared to defend their thoughts to others.

(5 minutes) Have students form into groups of 3-5 (or turn to groups already formed) and discuss their answers. Their goal should be to compare answers and agree AS A GROUP which statement they AGREE WITH THE MOST and which statement they DISAGREE with the most. Say and/or post the following instructions somewhere in the room: “As a group, CIRCLE the statement your group AGREEs WITH the most, and UNDERLINE the statement the group DISAGREES WITH the most.”

(5-10 minutes) Call on groups one at a time to explain which statement they agreed with most and which one they disagreed with the most, with some brief explanation (depending on the time you have, some time can be provided for students in other groups to raise hands and comment or chime in). It is also helpful to score the statements on the board to see if the class, as a whole, mostly agreed with and/or disagreed with the same ones the most (write number 1-6 on the board for the statements and write “A” next to one any time a group agreed with in the most and “D” next to any one a group disagrees with the most).

(10 minutes) Hand out ONE scenario sheet to each group (there are three scenarios, so there will be some repeats if you have more than 3 groups, but that is fine). Groups should read the scenarios to themselves, discuss the questions, and write down answers to them (and be prepared to explain them to the class).

(10-20 minutes) Call on groups by scenario (say, all groups with the “Graduation Speaker” sheet, first) to explain their thoughts on how people responded to the language and how it impacted free speech rights and what they thought the reaction should be. Once a scenario is covered, read aloud the real-world resolution to the conflict from the “Example Resolutions” sheet and call for some final discussion of each, time permitting.

(5 minutes) Once every scenario has been covered, ask the students to turn their original “‘Political Correctness’ and Free Speech” sheets to the blank, back side and give a quick, written response to the following prompt, which will serve as the exit ticket or final assessment for the activity (read aloud and/or written on board): “For what reasons, if ever, do you think people should alter or remove speech because of its offensiveness or the harm it may cause to others? Explain why.”


  • Scenarios could be read aloud to particular students.
  • Groups could also be formed purposefully to pair lower-performing students with higher-performing ones to give all students a variety of input and immediate assistance understanding difficult words or concepts.



Read More

Our right to comment

Posted by on Sep 5, 2016 in Blog, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

Our right to comment

Since media organizations have moved to online formats, they have struggled with the practice of hosting online comments next to their content. Many news organizations require posters to meet specific standards, moderate the comments, and reserve the right to remove or delete comments and users. Some organizations even require each post be approved by a human before it can be live on their sites. More recently, NPR is the latest news organization to completely remove comments from their news sites. Has the ability to comment on news stories created a more or less informed culture?


  • Students will explore the best ways to interact with news media
  • Students will define the roles of a media outlet

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.


60 minutes

Materials / resources

NPR story about taking comments away


Lesson step-by-step

  1. Have the students read the article linked above
  2. Break the students into groups of four and choose a current event. Have each group read the comments section of a different media outlet you assign them for the current event you have chosen.
  3. Have the students complete the worksheet.
  4. As a whole class, discuss the findings.
  5. As an editorial board, come up with guidelines for your own media. You can find model guidelines here.

During this activity, Editors who already have had discussions about comments could be exploring the policies that various student media have.

One group of students could also be using the time to look at ways that social media fills the role of the comments section for some media outlets.


Read More

Understanding the perils of
prior review and restraint

Posted by on Aug 31, 2015 in Blog, Legal issues, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

Understanding the perils of prior review and restraint

This lesson asks the viewers to participate by providing the answers to several questions concerning prior review and restraint. Following each slide, the correct answer is provided as well as a description of the reasoning for the answer.

• Students will learn the difference between prior review and restraint.
• Students will understand why prior review and restraint are not beneficial to any involved including students, teachers and administrators.
• Students will have understand the benefits of not having prior review.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language of a court opinion differs from that of a newspaper).
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.8 Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is valid and the evidence is relevant and sufficient; identify false statements and fallacious reasoning.

40 minutes

Materials / resources
CD2015 Prior Review pdf

Lesson step-by-step
Step 1: partner work — 2-5 minutes

Students should work in pairs to define the terms prior review and prior restraint. Teacher should ask several pairs to report their definitions.

Step 2: slideshow — 25 minutes
Teacher and students should work through the slideshow.

Step 3: debrief — 10-13 minutes
Students should review why prior review and restraint can negatively affect student media.

Teacher could ask students to research how an administrator reviewing content is not like the publisher or editor of media. Students could access resources and report back to the group.

Additional Resources
Prior review button on menu bar, JEA Scholastic Press Rights Committee
JEA Board Statement on Prior Review, JEA Scholastic Press Rights Committee
Building a Climate of Trust Can Ease Prior Review, JEA Scholastic Press Rights Committee
Seeking a Cure for the Hazelwood Blues: A call to Action, JEA Scholastic Press Rights Committee
Audio: Panic Button, JEA Scholastic Press Rights Committee, Press Rights Minute
Audio: Eliminating Prior Review, JEA Scholastic Press Rights Committee, Press Rights Minute


Read More

Lesson: Should media re-air a broadcast
in which two people are killed?

Posted by on Aug 27, 2015 in Blog, Ethical Issues, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments


Should media re-air a broadcast in which two people are gunned down?


Students will examine how to examine ethics of re-airing this broadcast using Poynter’s 10 questions to make good ethical choices.


  • Students will collaboratively work through questions to help them make a decision involving journalism ethics.
  • Students will decide what they would do in relation to this real-world ethical dilemma.
  • Students will note the difference in decisions between public officials and on-air reporters and camera operators.

Common Core State Standards

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.WHST.9-10.1.b Develop claim(s) and counterclaims fairly, supplying data and evidence for each while pointing out the strengths and limitations of both claim(s) and counterclaims in a discipline-appropriate form and in a manner that anticipates the audience’s knowledge level and concerns.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.WHST.9-10.9 Draw evidence from informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.


40 minutes

Materials / resources

Ethical questions from Poynter Institute: Ask these 10 questions to make good ethical decisions

Access to JEA’s SPRC Foundations Package: Covering controversy

Lesson step-by-step
Before the lesson delivery:

Because of the sensitivity of the topic, the teacher should tell the students they will be discussing the rebroadcast of the reporter and cameraman who died. They will not be viewing the video, but will discuss the ethical considerations concerning its availability. (Note: Students who have experienced trauma may need to leave the room, some might need to pace. If your community has experienced trauma, it would be advisable to have a counselor ready if needed.)

Step 1 — initial question (5 minutes)
Teacher should ask students if they believe the broadcast of the reporter and cameraman who died should be rebroadcast? Why or why not?

You may even ask students if anyone would like to share that they watched the video and why. (This should be dependent on your class.)

Teacher should tell the students they will make the decision using 10 questions from the Poynter Institute.

Step 2 — small groups (15 minutes)

Separate students into groups. Project (or hand out if no projector is available) Poynter’s 10 questions. Ask each group to discuss and make notes on each of the questions.

Step 3 — decision (5 minutes)

Ask students to come to a consensus as to whether they would re-air the video.

Step 4 — large group debrief (10 minutes)

Ask groups to share their decision and rationale based on the 10 questions provided.

Step 5 — Another questions (5 minutes)
Have you ever seen footage of JFK’s assassination (or another high ranking official)? What are the differences in this instance and that of JFK’s?

(Answers will vary, but many will cite the newsworthiness of the president being assassinated versus a lesser public figure.)

Ask students (in their groups) to outline several approaches for covering controversial issues. They should use the Scholastic Press Rights Committee resource: Covering controversy as a starting point. Also, see this link. Teacher may want to start with slide 17 (the last slide) for Day 2 of this lesson.

Lesson by Lori Keekley

For more materials on this topic, go here.

Read More