Introduction to the First Amendment

Yolande’ A. Barker
Trotwood-Madison High School
Trotwood, Ohio


  • Knowledge-Students will gain a basic understanding of the First Amendment.
  • Recognition- Students will recognize the benefits, and everyday representation of the five freedoms.
  • Expression-Students will express orally, and in writing their understanding of the First Amendment.


Activity 1

  • BELLWORK: Students are given five minutes to respond to this question:
    • What are the most important 42 words in American history? (Students usually respond with “Declaration of Independence”, “Emancipation Proclamation”)
    • After the time is completed, students will see the First Amendment glaring on the overhead!
    • Students are then broken up for a group exercise.
      • Roles are given to ensure that all members participate.
      • The recorder will write all responses from the group, the reporter will speak for the group at the appointed time and the timekeeper does just that.
      • In their group, students will Select one of the five freedoms written on an index card.
      • They must first write what their group thinks their freedom means, and provide examples. (Time limit: 2-3 minutes.)
      • They are then given their explanation of what their freedom means.
      • The recorder will read the explanation to the group.
      • The reporter will then report to what their group discussed about each freedom and their interpretations.
    • History of the First Amendment- Why it is important? LECTURE TIME!
    • Power Point- A world with no First Amendment- I have put together a collection of student art work and pictures that represent America without the First Amendment.
    • First assignment – Students are to memorize and present the First Amendment in a creative way – a song, rap, or a short skit. They are given a week to memorize.

Activity 2

  • When the students enter the room, I have the song “Hero” on by Mariah Carey.
  • BELL WORK: Discuss the qualities of a hero.
  • Hero Activity: Pictures are posted at different stations in the room. Students are to go to each station and define how each person qualifies as a hero. The pictures are of the following people:
    • Martin Luther King
    • Rosa Parks
    • John F. Kennedy
    • Cesar Chavez
    • A mirror (themselves)
    • Gandhi
    • Mother Theresa
  • Students then pair with another person and talk about those heroes. (15 minutes)
  • “Becoming a First Amendment Hero Creed”
    • Briefly discuss what is a creed. (Not the musical group, I quip)
    • Then I read the creed to the students.
    • Students are instructed to write the creed.
    • “Becoming a First Amendment Hero Creed”- by Yolande’ A. Barker
      • I understand the freedoms guaranteed under the First Amendment.
      • I recognize the benefits and will exercise and defend my rights under the First Amendment whenever needed
    • I then give examples from everyday life that show how one begins the process becoming a First Amendment Hero.
      • Shawn Patrick started a newspaper for young minorities in his community. (Freedom of the Press)
      • Sharita wore a green armband to denounce the mistreatment of Haitian refugees. (Freedom of Speech)
      • Students at Trompton High responded to an editorial that cast a shadow on the bleak future of teens today. (Freedom of the Press)
      • Sonia researched information on the Internet for her story. (Freedom of the Press)
  • Assignment – Create a collage of newspaper or magazine clippings that are example of the five freedoms guaranteed under the First Amendment.

Activity 3

  • BELLWORK: First Amendment quote. Respond to the quote (You supply your own.).
  • Creed – All students will recite the creed.
  • Collage – Students will present their collages.
  • Students are given time to practice for their First Amendment presentation.

Activity 4

  • BELLWORK – First Amendment quote. Respond to the quote.
  • Students give their creative presentations to the class.
  • Teacher reads a history of Ida Tarbell.
  • Students write a response to the reading about Tarbell.
  • Give students their “First Amendment Express” Card.
    • First Amendment Express Card: I just created this card as a business card. I typed the First Amendment on the card and had the card laminated.
    • The students really get a kick out of this.


  • Class presentations and participation in classroom discussions.