First Amendment: Speech

Big Question:

When does the First Amendment allow the government to limit speech?

Overview of this Conversation

Many Americans struggle with understanding the language and subsequent interpretation of the Constitution, especially when it comes to the rights encapsulated in the First Amendment.  While many Americans can agree that speech should be protected, there are disagreements over when, where, and how speech should be limited or restricted. This lesson encourages students to examine their own assumptions and to deepen their understanding of current accepted interpretations of speech rights under the First Amendment, including when and where speech is protected and/or limited. It should reinforce the robustness of the First Amendment protections of speech.

Instructional Materials on this Topic

Explore the First Amendment: Speech on the Interactive Constitution

Free Speech: Common Interpretation

Free Speech: Common Interpretation

By Geoffrey R. Stone and Eugene Volokh

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Matters of Debate: Fixing Free Speech

Matters of Debate: Fixing Free Speech

By Geoffrey R. Stone, Interim Dean and Edward H. Levi Distinguished Service Professor of Law, University of Chicago Law School

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Matters of Debate: Frontiers for Free Speech

Matters of Debate: Frontiers for Free Speech

By Eugene Volokh, Gary T. Schwartz Professor of Law, UCLA School of Law

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Continue the Conversation

Classroom Exchanges

Throughout the school year, teachers can register their classes to discuss a big constitutional question with a classroom somewhere else in the United States. The Center will facilitate these dialogues by pairing classrooms, connecting them with an expert moderator, and setting up videoconferencing sessions. 

New York Times Learning Network

Students can connect their constitutional understandings to current events by reading articles and op-ed pieces featured on the New York Times Learning Network. Students can then express their understanding of the constitutional issues involved through opinion polls on that site.

About the Lesson Plan Author

Staci Garber is a 20 year veteran of the classroom.  She holds a master’s degree in political science, another in economic education and entrepreneurship, and a third in international relations and global governance. Staci currently teaches global studies and psychology at a small private school in Bear, DE. and is a member of the Teachers’ Advisory Board at the National Constitution Center.

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