First Things First: Using the newspaper to teach the Five Freedoms of the First Amendment

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By Rob Melton
The reason for integrating newspapers into the curriculum is to acquaint students with various types of expository texts. These lessons help students analyze historical documents and synthesize them with issues involving the First Amendment. View First Things First or download it in PDF format here.

To facilitate learning, this curriculum is divided into five units for elementary, middle and secondary levels (specifically, for grades 3-12). Each lesson includes learning objectives, materials, applicable Common Core State Standards, procedures, reproducible handouts, assessment tools and adaptations. Lessons are designed to help students develop and enhance these skills:

  • Engagement with text
  • Writing
  • Reading across content areas
  • Team-building
  • Problem-solving
  • Technology integration
  • Researching
  • Analyzing and summarizing text
  • Debating
  • Class discussion

The guide was created in 2001 by winners of the NAA Foundation’s Newspaper Innovators In Education Award: Amanda Austin, Allana Joy Bourne, Ken Garrabrant, Trisha Lo Porto, Christienne Martin, Rob Melton, Terrence S. Mixon Sr., Steve Peha and Layne Williams.

The National Council for the Social Studies (www.socialstudies.org) defines social studies as “the integrated study of the social sciences and humanities to promote civic competence.” The purpose of First Things First: Using the Newspaper to Teach the Five Freedoms of the First Amendment is to provide a framework for implementing social studies across various content areas by using instructional activities from the newspaper. The biggest piece of this framework is teaching about the five freedoms of the First Amendment and how they are realized in American society. Some content in this curriculum guide is modified and adapted from the original edition of “First Things First: Using the Newspaper to Teach the Five Freedoms of the First Amendment.”

What Are the Five Freedoms?*
Freedom of Religion
This prohibits government from establishing an official religion and protects an individual’s right to practice any faith – or no faith.
Freedom of Speech
This permits citizens to speak freely without governmental interference or prosecution.
Freedom of Press
This prohibits government from controlling what appears in newspapers, books and other printed materials, what is aired on television and radio, and what is presented online. Citizens are free to publish news, information and opinions.
Freedom of Assembly
This permits citizens to gather in public or in private. They can march, protest, demonstrate, organize and express opinions in a nonviolent manner.
Freedom of Petition
This permits citizens to ask for changes in laws and governmental decisions.

*These definitions are taken in part from a Freedom Forum lesson plan. For more information, visit http://www.freedomforum.org/packages/first/curricula/educationforfreedom/supportpages/L01-FirstAmendmentExplained.htm.

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First Things First: Using the newspaper to teach the Five Freedoms of the First Amendment