Day One: Introducing the First Amendment

The First Amendment Project begins with the introduction of the First Amendment and the understanding of “Freedom of Conscience.” Through educational videos, specifically developed for this plan of study, students will engage with deep and fundamental understanding of this freedom. Highlighted in this video are National Constitution Center President and CEO Jeffrey Rosen and U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Elena Kagan who tell the story of the First Amendment to students—its protections and its safeguards—and how the Supreme Court, legal scholars, and citizens have interpreted it over time. This introduction teaches students about today’s legal discourse surrounding the First Amendment by highlighting areas of common interpretation and debate.

The associated classroom materials engage students in examining primary sources that record the development of the First Amendment through the Writing Rights interactive. This tool presents students with James Madison’s original proposals for what became the First Amendment—as well as the legal texts that preceded Madison’s drafts and the revisions to Madison’s proposals made by the First Congress. Day 1 lays the groundwork for later classes by helping students to build understandings of the relationships between the freedoms protected by the First Amendment. The lesson plan also demonstrates for the students that disagreement about the interpretation of the First Amendment is as old as the amendment itself, while modeling the ability to reach consensus on contentious questions. In subsequent lessons, students will focus in-depth on the individual clauses of the amendment.

Essential Questions:

  • Why and how do the clauses in the First Amendment protect fundamental rights?
  • What is the big idea behind these freedoms, and why do they represent the core elements of American democracy?
  • Why are these five freedoms important today?

Get Started:

Overview Video Part One:  Overview Video Part Two: 

National Constitution Center President and CEO Jeffrey Rosen and Associate Justice Elena Kagan discuss the First Amendment and how the Supreme Court, legal scholars, and citizens have interpreted it over time.

Watch the second part of our video introducing the First Amendment, featuring National Constitution Center President and CEO Jeffrey Rosen and Associate Justice Elena Kagan.

Classroom Materials Sign Up for for an Exchange

The associated classroom materials allow educators to work with students for a deeper dive into the meaning of the First Amendment, the four clauses, and select Court cases over the next few class periods.

Sign up now for your Day 10 Exchange and discuss big constitutional questions with a classroom elsewhere in the United States.  The Center will pair you with a classroom, connect you with an expert moderator, and set up videoconferencing sessions.

 

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