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December 15 – Celebrate the Birthday of the First Amendment

Tiffany Baricko
J.W. Mitchell High School
New Port Richey, Florida

Overview and Rationale: Determine what rights are protected in the First Amendment and how they affect students.

Goals for Understanding:

Essential Questions

  • What rights are granted in the First Amendment?

Critical Engagement Questions

  • How are the First Amendment rights relevant today?
  • How are the First Amendment rights relevant to me?

Performance of Understanding, Rationale and Timeline
We begin with an activity to begin discussing the First Amendment and any prior knowledge of it. Then we look at the definition of the First Amendment. The lesson is concluded with a creative project to be able to express the student’s understanding and interpretation of the First Amendment.

Activity 1: (30 minutes)

  • Ask the students if they can name the five Simpson characters from the television show the Simpsons.
  • Then ask how many can name all five freedoms in the First Amendment. Try to get the students to rattle off all of them.
  • Then hand out a copy of the article “Even Homer can defend our nations 5 freedoms” to read aloud in class: http://www.sptimes.com/2006/03/05/Columns/Even_Homer_can_defend.shtml
  • Discuss the comparison of the characters to each of the freedoms in the First Amendment and what each freedom represents. This takes approximately 30 minutes.

Activity 2: (2-3 class periods)

  • Using the article just read and reviewing the formal wording of the First Amendment, students will create a foldable to help learn the amendment.
  • First, take a blank piece of paper and fold it in half long ways, we call it a hot dog fold. Then on the top flap, cut four slits from the outer edge up to the fold to create five flaps that can be opened up.
  • On the outside of each flap students will draw each of the Simpson characters (one per flap) in order they are mentioned in the article. On it, they also need to write the freedom that is associated with that character. Then on the back of the flaps, students will write out the formal First Amendment definition. I have them write it out where the flap that mentions each freedom, corresponds to the part of the definition that mentions it. For example, the first flap should have Marge Simpson on the front, representing religion. The back of it should read: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. The next flap would have Bart Simpson on the front representing speech; the back of that flap would read: or abridging the freedom of speech. Complete the other 3 flaps this same way.
  • Students draw their own picture to represent that freedom below it on the lower flap. When complete, students will have a fun foldable that will have visual representation along with the formal definition of the First Amendment.

Activity 3: (one-two class periods) Now that students have a better understanding of the five rights in the First Amendment, I have them interpret the rights in the form of a First Amendment collage.

  • Students are to look through magazines for images that, to them, represent each of the five freedoms in the First Amendment.
  • Cut them out and paste them on to a piece of construction paper to create a collage.
  • Label them and create captions if they wish, but it is their creative masterpiece to choose how they want it to look.
  • The final step is to present their collage to the class explaining why they chose each of the pictures on their collage and how it represents one of the freedoms in the First Amendment.

Assessment

The article assignment and flip chart is not graded. It is an activating strategy and study tool. I do assess participation points for working on the assignment. The collage is a 50 point project grade. When they present their collage, they receive 10 points per freedom accurately represented on their collage. I do not grade based on the image chosen, but on how the student interprets that image to reflect the meaning of each of the rights in the First Amendment.

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