“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.”
The first Amendment to the Constitution continues to be at the center of current events. Teachers of American Government, Civics, American History, Speech, or Writing courses may find the following lesson useful to introduce the First Amendment to the US Constitution in connection with the art of civil argumentation.
Reading and Listening Standards for Informational Text: Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is sound and the evidence is relevant and sufficient; recognize when irrelevant evidence is introduced. (Aligns with ACT’s College and Career Readiness System.)
*How has the national discourse about freedom of speech and freedom of the press impacted public perception and opinions?
*Is the current discourse truly about the principles of freedom of speech and the press or is it centered on other issues? Identify and substantiate your claim.
Students choose one of the two essential questions and research the question using reliable sources.
1. State your conclusion and defend your argument based upon
substantiated evidence from reliable sources.
2. After students complete the assignment, chart the class conclusions.
3. Pair student groups to check each other’s sources for accuracy.
4. Identify patterns, clusters, conflicting evidence.
Optional activity: Set ground rules for civl discourse. Arrange the class in a circle. In the middle of the circle, two students with opposing conclusions sit in the “hot seats”. They use their sources to prove their argument or disprove the other student. At any time after the opening comments, students in the outer circle can raise their hand to be “tagged” by one of the two students in the hot seats. The tagged student then takes the vacated hot seat and introduces new evidence to support or expand upon the same position as the initial student in that hot seat.
Closing discussion: What now? How will this experience impact your perceptions and consumption of news from various sources? How has this experience impacted your understanding of the First Amendment?