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First Amendment school dialogue


by Jeff Kocur


First Amendment school dialogue


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.


  • 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).


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


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


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.


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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