Bill of Rights: Freedom of Expression

Upper elementary to middle school


1-2 class periods plus 1 summative assessment




  • Bill of Rights Day

We the People: The Citizen & the Constitution

  • Unit 4, Lesson 17: How Does the Constitution Protect Your Right to Freedom of Expression? (Level 1)
  • Unit 5, Lesson 23: How Does the Constitution Protect Freedom of Expression? (Level 2)

Educating for American Democracy (EAD) Roadmap:

  • Theme 5: Institutional and Social Transformation
  • CDQ: Which rights does the Constitution and its amendments express as affirmative rights and which as negative rights?


 Do we really have freedom of speech?


 How has our freedom of speech changed over time?



  • Analyze how interpretations of First Amendment rights to speech and press have changed over time.
  • Identify examples of limited and protected First Amendment rights.
  • censorship: Limitations by the government on an individual’s right to speak or publish
  • defamation: Saying or writing something about another person that hurts their reputation


  • The First Amendment to the United States Constitution states, "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.”
  • These may be the 45 most important words in our democracy. The First Amendment protects our most basic freedoms. In fact, the First Amendment is often referred to as the Five Freedoms. This inquiry allows for students to evaluate the fundamental right to freedom of expression. Teachers should understand the power and purpose of our freedom of speech and the press. Additionally, teachers should be knowledgeable about how these freedoms have been protected and limited over time and how they have had a direct impact on our democracy. Teachers can find additional background support resources as follows:


Students will develop their responsible decision-making by
  • identifying problems when First Amendment rights have been violated,
  • analyzing situations to determine if First Amendment rights have been protected or limited and collaborating in peer groups, and
  • reflecting on new learning by completing the Inquiry Reflection Tool.


  • Students will demonstrate their understanding of how First Amendment rights have evolved over time by creating a podcast. Teachers may assess by using the assessment rubric.
  • Students will participate in self-reflection by completing the Inquiry Reflection Tool.  


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