FIRE’s K-12 Free Speech Curriculum modules help educators enrich and supplement their existing instruction on First Amendment and freedom of expression issues in middle and high school classrooms.
FIRE’s curriculum draws on our 20 years of experience in actively defending free speech in academia, as well as our legal expertise and extensive scholar/educator network. These First Amendment resources for teachers equip educators to foster appreciation and respect among students for freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and the free exchange of diverse ideas.
Students will learn why their free speech rights are so valuable, how they are essential to learning and to democracy, and about their proven history in securing justice and fairness for disempowered and marginalized populations. Centered in social and emotional learning, these lessons demonstrate how basic rights can be threatened and illustrate ways to protect them. Likewise, students will discover why their own speech rights ultimately depend upon respecting others’ equivalent rights.
FIRE’s Free Speech Curriculum includes everything K-12 teachers need, from prepared PowerPoint slide decks to short, impactful videos. Based on existing learning standards, they include appropriate, engaging classroom activities along with meaningful assessments. Already in use by hundreds of educators across the country, FIRE’s Free Speech Curriculum provides a useful and necessary addition to every classroom concerned with cultivating active citizenship and rigorous, open discourse in the next generation.
Questions and comments about our First Amendment curriculum and educational resources may be directed by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Right to Protest
The right to protest guarantees us the ability to use our free speech to voice opposition to things we disagree with. In this unit, students will learn what constitutes a legally protected protest, what the limits are, and examine some notable controversial forms of protest.
Current Free Speech Issues
When it comes to free speech, there’s always plenty to discuss and learn. This lesson explores some of the current controversies around free speech in education through various activities, videos, DBQs, and discussion-focused questions. Students will learn about some of the most popular arguments against free speech and how to respond to them, as well as why it can be important to voice your opinion, even if it’s an unpopular one.
Freedom of the Press and Newspaper Theft on Campus
In this mini-lesson, students will discover reasons why freedom of the press is important and why newspaper theft—an unfortunate incident that sometimes takes place on American college campuses—is wrong. Includes descriptions of actual newspaper heists.
Freedom of Religion Lesson
The first right listed in the First Amendment is the freedom of religion. This unit explores what it means to have freedom from and freedom of religion through discussion of key issues such as the Lemon test and the Establishment and Free Exercise clauses. Students will learn the legal limitations of freedom of religion, take a webtour of historic religious sites in Philadelphia, PA, and study significant Supreme Court cases that have influenced the legal landscape.
The Emperor’s New Clothes
Would you speak up if you saw something completely ridiculous? Or would you keep your doubts to yourself? This lesson examines the importance of thinking for oneself, even if everyone else disagrees using Hans Christian Andersen’s fable “The Emperor’s New Clothes” to demonstrate the point. Students will gain a better understanding of the potential pitfalls of conformity, compliance, and obedience while fostering a healthy self-confidence.
Ben Franklin and the First Amendment
Ben Franklin was an influential champion of free speech and freedom of the press during the founding and formation of the United States of America. This lesson takes a look at two of Franklin’s works – Silence Dogood No. 8 and “On the Freedom of the Press” in order to gain insight into his thinking about two of our fundamental freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution.
This featured lesson provides educators with a structured lesson plan and a range of resources designed to help them lead successful classroom discussions of the competing candidates and issues, even during a contentious election year. Includes background information on developmental psychology and effective communication skills to equip teachers and students to interact in a healthy, productive way.
Remote Learning Lesson: Social Media Censorship
In this video lesson, FIRE’s Director of High School Outreach Bonnie Snyder interviews FIRE attorney Alex Morey about the legal considerations and competing interests involved in social media censorship of “misinformation” about the coronavirus, and steps tech companies are taking to elevate information from authoritative sources.
Coronavirus and Free Speech Lesson
The world suddenly faces the daunting challenge of a viral pandemic. In this lesson, students consider an article by FIRE President Greg Lukianoff in which he argues that freedom of speech is essential to create the scholarly climate that will allow varying opinions on the virus to be discussed in a useful spirit of open inquiry.
Black History Month Lesson
This featured lesson, centered on Frederick Douglass’ acclaimed defense of free expression entitled, “A plea for free speech in Boston,” is ideally suited for use during Black History Month. It is also appropriate for lessons on the First Amendment, minority rights, the perils of censorship, and the power of the spoken word.
The Philosophy of Free Speech
This unit reviews the unique inheritance of basic rights and freedoms bestowed on all American citizens by our founding documents, which draw from Enlightenment conceptions of liberty and individual human dignity. It also covers the essential role of open discourse and reasoning in examining evidence and seeking truth.
Constitution Day Lesson
FIRE has prepared a special Constitution Day Lesson to help educators communicate the background and value of their First Amendment Rights. This standards-based lesson includes a prepared PowerPoint slide deck, summarized reading materials, and accompanying discussion and critical thinking questions.
Speech, Power, and Censorship in American History
Free speech rights have proven themselves essential in securing a fair hearing for demands for justice and equal Constitutional protection for marginalized groups and isolated, targeted individuals throughout U.S. history. This module examines the crucial role of free speech in the Abolitionist, Women’s Suffrage, and Civil Rights movements.
The Law and Free Speech
The legal landscape for free speech was defined by the Supreme Court over the past century. This lesson explores the landmark cases and legal reasoning behind the strong speech protections that Americans uniquely enjoy, while correcting some common misconceptions. Topics include the importance of tolerating critical dissent in a democracy, the value of clashing opinions, and the reasons for responding to offensive speech with more speech, not censorship.
Debate Activity Kit
Students who wish to be effective, persuasive communicators must develop argumentation skills. This unit includes sample debate topics, instruction on how to form a powerful argument, and activities designed to help students build comfort with taking, defending, and challenging competing positions on controversial topics.
Handling Offensive Speech
This unit will address the social-emotional aspects of dealing with unwelcome but protected speech, and covers ways that students can build resilience, refutation, self-advocacy, and coping skills. The unit also includes a bonus section: Teaching Healthy Discourse.
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