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Teacher Lesson Return to "Do Teens Care About Free Speech?"
Do Teens Care About Free Speech?
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Media/News Literacy Lesson—Understanding Freedom of the Press

Objective: Students will learn about the First Amendment’s guaranty of freedom of the press.

Before the lesson: Write the First Amendment on the board: “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 peacefully to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

Step 1: Introduce the lesson by handing out copies of the story and telling the group:

• Say something like: I will read three statements about how much freedom you think newspapers, websites, magazines, and other publications should have in printing stories. If you agree with the statement, raise your hand. (Ask someone to count the votes and record the tallies for each question on the board.)

• Say something like: After the survey you will read a story by a teenager who was outraged by what her fellow students thought about the First Amendment. The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States prohibits Congress from “abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.” There have been many controversial court cases involving just how much freedom publishers have to print stories.

Step 2: Read the following statements to the group, reminding students to raise their hands if they agree with the statement. Pause after each statement to count the votes:

• The government should be able to stop a newspaper or other publisher from publishing stories that reveal government secrets.

• Police should be able to close down a publisher for printing stories that criticize the President during a war.

• Police should be able to arrest a reporter who includes untrue statements in an article that causes someone to commit suicide.

Step 3: Ask the students to read either the whole story or just the relevant sections. (More than half of the story concerns Janill’s questions about how a survey on teen views of the First Amendment was conducted. If you want to focus a discussion on the importance of the First Amendment and how teens view the rights mentioned in it, have your students read up until the subhead “What Do Freshmen Know?” and then read the section under the subhead “Know Your Rights.”)

Step 4: Lead a discussion. Some discussion questions you might pose are:

• Why did you respond the way you did to the survey statements?

• What would the author of the story think about your responses?

• What are the advantages and disadvantages of having a lot of freedom to publish stories?

• Does the First Amendment have any impact on you?

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