Pages Navigation Menu

Just This Once: FSW lesson 2



The American Library Association’s Intellectual Freedom Committee released “The Speaker … A Film About Freedom” in 1977. The film, in its original form, comes with a discussion guide. Today, the website for it has the discussion guide and links to coverage about the film and other pertinent articles. Controversial in 1977, the film today hits at many current issues surrounding free speech. Note the date, 1977. Clothing and style reflect that timeframe. It might take students a while to get beyond that and into the First Amendment issues.


“Just this once”


Based on a 1977 film by the American Library Association, The Speaker, on whether a school and its community should allow a speaker to talk on controversial issues. The key question is, essentially, “What is the harm in just this once in preventing a person from speaking an idea.”


  • Students will analyze the questions raised in the film.
  • Students will discuss the issues raised in the film.
  • Students will develop a position based on what they find.
  • Students will formulate possible alternative solutions to the film’s outcome.

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.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.9-10.5 Analyze in detail how an author’s ideas or claims are developed and refined by particular sentences, paragraphs, or larger portions of a text (e.g., a section or chapter).


120 minutes

Materials / resources

Internet access for the film’s background:

The Speaker:

Lesson step-by-step

Step 1 — introduction (10 minutes)Foundations_main

The teacher should present background to the film from the ALA site and raise the essential question for the activity: “What is the harm in just this once in preventing a person from speaking an idea.” Stress should be placed on the concept of free expression, especially in context with Free Speech Week. The teacher might also have to discuss the difference in clothing and fashion.

Step 2 — Show the film (43 minutes)

Option 1: Show the film in its entirety without stopping for explanation. Students would have to take notes and jot down questions they have.

Option 2: Stop the film at student questions or at teacher-chosen key points for discussion/explanation. This, of course would lengthen the presentation time into Day 2.

Step 3:— Processing the film’s information (7 minutes) (Homework assignment)

Ask students to examine their notes and list key points made for and against the speaker, and to be ready to discuss  the issues and to plan for alternatives.

Step 4 — Day 2 Discussion (25 minutes)

Students will discuss the issues of the film, working toward a conclusion of whether the speaker should speak.

Option 1: Small group discussion with each group reaching a decision which would  have to be resolved in class.

Option 2: Large group discussion with possible resolutions posted on whiteboard for decisions.

Step 5 — Alternatives and solutions (25 minutes)

With their possible solutions of the whiteboard, have students work in small groups to examine alternatives. Is it an either-or dilemma? Are alternatives possible and would they help accommodate all positions? What types of ethical problem solving is possible?  Have the small groups work toward explaining their decision in terms of ethics.

Step 6 — Final discussion (10 minutes)

What surprised you the most? What was the best alternative or solution? How as a journalist should you apply the issues involved?

Assign each student to prepare a 50 word or less statement in the form of a poster of why his or her decision of “just this once” is the ethical stance to take. Statement due the next class.

Step 7 — Assessment

Credit given to student responses in the 50-word statement. Post them in the classroom for continued discussion and possible use in class/staff ethical guidelines.


The  teacher might have students watch the video at home and take notes there, shortening the lessons by one day.


The class could spend an additional day making the issues current by replacing the speaker with a politician/issues from the 2016 presidential election.

Leave a Comment