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Protest and the First Amendment


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This lesson is intended to help students gain a better understanding of the legalities that protect the right to protest as outlined in the First Amendment, and to appreciate the importance of journalism in accurately covering protest. Finally, students will be able to review examples of protest coverage, best practices for covering protests, and will be able to apply their knowledge to a variety of protest coverage scenarios.


  • Students will be able to define protected forms of protest as defined in the First Amendment.
  • Students will articulate the importance of journalism in accurately covering protest.
  • Students will discuss best practices for covering protest in various scenarios.

Common Core State Standards:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.11-12.1Initiate 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.SL.11-12.4Present 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.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.11-12.7Integrate 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.

Length: 2 50-minute class periods

Day 1: 50 minutes

  1. First Amendment and protest knowledge pre-check (5-10 minutes)
  2. Presentation (10-15 minutes minutes)
  3. Article reading (to be finished as homework if not completed during class)

Day 2: 50 minutes

  1. Discussion of articles in small groups or with entire class (10 minutes)
  2. Scenario discussions (40 minutes)


Presentation (for background information; later for scenarios):

Articles (assign for groups to read and report to rest of class):

Helpful “tip” sheets:

Presentation (return to the slides for the scenarios or print them for distribution)

Lesson Step-by-Step:

  1. Probe students for knowledge about the First Amendment and how it applies to the right to protest as well as the right to report on protest (5 minutes). Ask questions such as:
    1. What are the 5 freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment?
    2. Which of the freedoms apply to protest and/or journalists’ coverage of protest? Why?
    3. Can you identify protests of past or present? If so, name them. (This is a good opportunity to hand them markers and ask them to run up to write them on the board or use a poll such as “Poll Everywhere” to collect responses.
  2. Show the presentation about the First Amendment and protest (10-15 minutes).
  3. Randomly assign students in small groups to read one of the 4 articles and discuss among themselves. Have them be prepared to report the take-always/perspectives from their assigned article at the beginning of the next class period (remainder of class period for reading and small group discussion).
  4. At the beginning of the next class period, have each group share the big takeaways/perspectives of the article they read. This will allow for the rest of the class to hear about various perspectives and situations involving protests and covering protests [for student journalists] (10-15 minutes).
  5. Display scenarios for students to discuss (the students can choose or you can). They should consider the legal and ethical guidelines for approaching each scenario and share their process for deciding how to respond (remainder of class period).
  6. Assign a reflection paper for homework to be collected at the beginning of the next class period. This should involve them describing their approach to addressing/responding to one of the scenarios that you did not cover during the class period.


The intent is to have students read one of the articles in small groups, but you could assign all of them as homework so they read all of them. In addition, there are several resources that they may wish to consult during this lesson. This will be especially useful to review should they find themselves covering protest.

If you wish to condense this into one day, you could assign the presentation and article(s) as homework, and then just go over the scenarios in class. It is recommended to discuss no more than 3 of the scenarios so the students can reflect on the 4th in a writing exercise for assessment purposes.

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