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Understanding and Promoting Student Press Rights

Posted by on Aug 14, 2019 in Blog | 0 comments


Freedom of Speech rights, especially when it comes to students in any sort of student publication, can be very complex, but there are some overall principles that can lead to a solid understanding of the basics. This lesson provides details and background on what rights student journalists generally possess, gives resources for understanding how any local policies affect those rights and supplies scenarios and links to promote further discussion and involvement.


  • Students will understand the specific sources of the rights of student journalists.
  • Students will recognize the most important details to consider when seeking to determine their own rights.
  • Students will appreciate what can be done to solidify and promote student press rights further.

Common Core State Standards

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.
Present information, findings, and supporting evidence, conveying a clear and distinct perspective, such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning, alternative or opposing perspectives are addressed, and the organization, development, substance, and style are appropriate to purpose, audience, and a range of formal and informal tasks.
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.


Approximately 50 minutes


Presentation: Student Press Rights Presentation

Handout: Student Press Rights Scenarios

Handout: Student Press Rights InDepth Response

Activity/lesson Step by Step

Step 1 — Introduction/Pre-Quiz (10 minutes) 

Briefly introduce the topic of student rights by testing students on the five questions at the start of the presentation. You may call on students for each possible answer for each one or require all students to write possible answers before revealing and discussing them.

Step 2 — Presentation (25 minutes) 

Work through the middle portion of the presentation, attempting to come to a somewhat clear outline of what rights student journalists have. Feel free to invite discussion or ask for comments from students about what might work or not work or about what they know about their own school board and publication policies.

Step 3 — Scenarios Groups and Full-Class Discussion (15 minutes) 

Have the scenarios printed out and cut up into squares, and then have students in groups (or individual, if preferred), discuss the scenario they have been handed. After a few minutes, guide them to discuss their thoughts to each scenario one at a time, following the order in the presentation. (You may also just have the entire class discuss each one as a class.) The goal should be to find ways to apply the specifics laid out earlier in the presentation and to get into specifics about how you school does or should operate. There is not necessarily a single, correct answer to find.


If you have more time, you or the students may also visit some of the links throughout the presentation for more information or search for and discuss your own school board’s student publication policy and/or your publication’s editorial policy.


Look through responses to the “Student Press Rights InDepth Response” (explained, below, under “Extension”) for more specific and individual assessment.


You may use the “Student Press Rights InDepth Response” handout to force students to grapple in more depth with a more specific scenario. These can be completed and turned in individually and discussed, later, to see what different students thought and what reasoning they used.

You may have students write an op-ed piece about the importance and/or place of student journalists and student press rights and submit to the Student Press Law Center for its“Year of the Student Journalist” celebration:

If you have additional time or class periods, it would be excellent to guide your students through the creation of improvement of a publication editorial policy or through greater understanding of their own school board policy. If deemed necessary, students could contact the SPLC or the New Voices movement or the JEA’s Scholastic Press Rights Committee to look for assistance/advice on getting the school board to improve its student publications policy, if deemed necessary.

For past Constitution Day materials, go here.

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Free speech vs. hate speech: What’s protected?

Posted by on Aug 14, 2019 in Blog | 0 comments



Free speech vs. hate speech: What’s protected?

In the United States, the First Amendment protects freedom of speech. Social media has provided a platform for anyone with an internet connection to post their views on any topic imaginable. Protesters have the right to hold signs and convey their beliefs in public places. But what about hate speech? Should certain ideas and messages be silenced.


  • Students will gain an understanding of the historical protection of free speech in the United States. 
  • Students will recognize the importance of protecting free speech.
  • Students will explore ways to use free speech to combat hate speech. 

Common Core State Standards 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). strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text. 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. strategic use of digital media (e.g., textual, graphical, audio, visual, and interactive elements) in presentations to enhance understanding of findings, reasoning, and evidence and to add interest.


One 45-50 minute class period. Can easily be extended to two or three classes, depending upon the length of presentations and/or group vs. individual work. 

Materials / resources

Links to use: 

Rubric to print:

Lesson step-by-step

Step 1: 

  1. OPTIONAL: Teacher shows the History Channel video (3:09 min) as an introduction to the topic.
  2. Teacher facilitates a class discussion about the students’ interpretation of hate speech. 
    1. What kind of speech do you consider hate speech?
    2. What do you think the school administration, teachers or students should do to deter hate speech on campus?
    3. Should the school news show, yearbook, newspaper include controversial ideas in their publications? 
  3. Teacher provides background on the American Civil Liberties Union. “For nearly 100 years, the ACLU has been our nation’s guardian of liberty, working in courts, legislatures, and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties that the Constitution and the laws of the United States guarantee everyone in this country.”

Step 2: 

Students will:

A. Read this article about the ACLU’s position on Hate Speech:

B. Summarize the article in one paragraph.

C. One or two students will read their paragraph aloud to the class. 

Step 3: 

A. Students will choose one of these stories from recent years to research. Teacher decides if students should work individually or in groups. 

B. Students will summarize the 5W and the H of the story they chose. 

C. Students will create a brief presentation of 2-3 slides (pptx, Google Presentation, Keynote) to share their findings with the class.

Step 4: 

  1. Students share their presentations with the class. 
  2. Teacher leads a class discussion about each case, focusing on ways to combat hate speech with free speech.
  3. Teacher assesses the presentations with this rubric:


The entire lesson could be facilitated as a whole group, small group, or individual assignment depending upon the level of the class. If student access to technology is limited, the teacher can print out the articles in advance and distribute them to groups of students for analysis and discussion. Students could work in pairs to create posters with paper/pencil/markers rather than electronic presentations.

Students could display posters around the room and visit each poster “station” to hear from the groups. One member of each pair would stand with their poster to present. The other member would circulate to hear from each of the other presenters at their station.

Students would switch from presenter to observer halfway through the period so that each student had the opportunity to present, and each would have the opportunity to observe and learn.

For past Constitution Day materials, go here

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Citizenship in the United States: Lesson Plan for Constitution Day 2019

Posted by on Aug 14, 2019 in Blog | 0 comments


A recent Gallup poll suggests that a record 27% of U.S. American citizens believe immigration is the most important issue we as a country face. The 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution outlines what we call “birthrightcitizenship,” which has sparked much debate as of late. Those not born in the United States or its territories can apply for citizenship, and part of this process involves passing a citizenship test that many birthright citizens could not likely pass.

In this lesson, students will examine the history of ratifying the Constitution, the addition of the Bill of Rights, assess their own Constitutional knowledge by answering Constitution-specific questions  from the current citizenship test, and read/discuss recent news stories and opinion pieces about the great citizenship debate.


  • Students will ascertain why some states debated the initial ratification of the Constitution.
  • Students will test their own knowledge of the Constitution by answering questions that appear on the current citizenship test.
  • Students will critique recent news stories and op-eds about the current debate surrounding citizenship and immigration. 

Common Core State Standards the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas. various explanations for actions or events and determine which explanation best accords with textual evidence, acknowledging where the text leaves matters uncertain. information from diverse sources, both primary and secondary, into a coherent understanding of an idea or event, noting discrepancies among sources.


90 minutes

Document for handout: CSDAY2019 (PDF)

Materials / resources

Links to stories provided on the second page of the document: 


Lesson step-by-step

Step 1 — 30 minutes

Distribute the handout for the students and explain that they are to follow each portion from 1-7-8-7 — ask them to pause before beginning the last 7. Note: Encourage them to answer the questions on their own first (without the aid of classmates or other resources).

Step 2 — 45 minutes

Ask the students to read one or two of the articles (time permitting) by visiting the links provided. Encourage them to take notes about the content of the article, perspectives presented, references to the Constitution and its amendments, and potential biases they can identify.

Step 3 — 45 minutes

Discuss articles the students read, and then encourage them to read the remaining articles. You may add extra time for further discussion.

Ask students to locate additional articles for discussion. Journalism advisers: encourage your staff to brainstorm/explore the issue of citizenship in future coverage.


Students who may not have studied this material previously may be encouraged to use textbooks or the Internet to answer the questions on the first page of the activity. In addition, you may wish to divide students into small groups to read one article each and then summarize it for the class.

For past Constitution Day materials, go here.

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Evaluating political ads

Posted by on Aug 14, 2019 in Blog | 0 comments



Evaluating Political Ads


In this lesson, students are introduced to how political advertisements use free speech and persuasive techniques to motivate voters. Students will evaluate advertisements, consider the ethical dilemmas of using persuasive tactics in political advertising and create their own political advertisements.


  • Students will explore trends in political advertising.
  • Students will identify persuasive techniques in political advertising.
  • Students will evaluate ethical dilemmas and free speech issues in political advertising. 
  • Students will create their own political advertisements.

Common Core State Standard

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.9-10.8Gather relevant information from multiple authoritative print and digital sources, using advanced searches effectively; assess the usefulness of each source in answering the research question; integrate information into the text selectively to maintain the flow of ideas, avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.9-10.2Determine a central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.9-10.3Analyze how the author unfolds an analysis or series of ideas or events, including the order in which the points are made, how they are introduced and developed, and the connections that are drawn between them.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.9-10.4Determine 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).


90 minutes (depending on class size

Materials / resource

Slideshow: Political Advertising

Storyboard Assignment Sheet (Copy front to back, and have extras)

Lesson step-by-step

Step 1 — Review political ads and strategies (30 minutes)

Use the slideshow linked above to review political ads and teach strategies commonly found in advertising. There are teacher notes and prompts in the slideshow, and showing the linked ads along with pausing for discussion prompts will likely take around 30 minutes.

Step 2 — Introduce the lesson (5 minutes)

Explain to students that they need to use their knowledge of political advertising to create an idea for their own political ad. You, their teacher, and thinking of running for state senate, and your students should create an ad idea to persuade voters (if you’re really feeling brave, you can let them decide whether they are persuading FOR you or AGAINST you!). 

Step 3— Storyboarding (20 minutes)

Pass out the storyboard assignment sheet to the groups you formed during the discussion and slideshow review. 

Give groups 20 minutes to determine the storyboard for their ad, sketching the scenes and describing the music, mood, lighting, and techniques on the lines below each scene.

Step 4 — Present and assess (5-8 minutes per group)

Groups should present their storyboards. As groups present, instruct them NOT to give away the strategies being used in the ad, just the description of how the ad will flow. 

Students in the audience should take notes of which strategies they identified in each ad as a way to check for understanding.  

Finally, decide as a class which ad will be more persuasive and why.

For past Constitution Day materials, go here.

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Resources for working on student free press legislation

Posted by on Aug 14, 2019 in Blog | 0 comments

Several students, including Lukas Levin, make signs to promote the 2018 Minnesota New Voices campaign.

For Constitution Day, we created a resource for those working on state student free expression legislation. This resource can take stakeholders through the stages of the process. 

We hope this blossoms into a robust resource area. Samples are included for many items, but please remember, these are samples of what others have done. It is not a best practice to use them as your own. Your information should be specific to your state and should include issues of concern to your legislators. 

• This Google Drive includes the following:
Writing the legislation
Finding a sponsor
Organizing advocates
Preparing for the long process Citizenship
Building the case for legislation
Lobbying with students and following up
Educating all before and after bill passage

If you have questions or something to add to this resource, please send it to
I wish you the best in this legislative season.
Lori Keekley, SPRC director

Students from Stillwater Area High School allying the corridor to the State Senate and House chamber during the Minnesota Lobby Day. 

For past Constitution materials, go here.

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