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Primary Document Analysis

Social Studies Lessons for High School is designed for social studies teachers to use with their government and history courses. It was developed in response to a shift in education throughout our country: a move away from rote memorization and toward the critical thinking skills necessary for many of the new performance assessment programs.

Each lesson will enable teachers to teach seven specific critical thinking skills in a step-by-step process. The information has been adapted for old media and new media formats. Web sites will be provided that will allow teachers to choose the most appropriate resource for the selected activity. All selections can be copied for classroom use. Teachers may adapt activities to allow students to complete assignments via the web.

Bob Black is former Teachers Network web mentor. He is a social studies teacher at the Harbor City Learning Center, located across the street from the historic Edgar Allen Poe House  in Baltimore, MD.

Lesson Plan

Students will analyze historic documents to determine the basic principles of United States government and apply them to real-world situations.

Students will use reading skills and strategies to gather information and interpret written messages.

Lesson Objectives 
Students will be able to:
  • Analyze the major parts of the First Amendment to the Constitution.
  • Explain the importance of First Amendment rights.

Preparation/ Motivation
Discuss this statement with the class:
A law should be passed to ban obscene rap music. Do you agree or disagree? Why or why not?

Lesson Procedures

  1. Distribute a copy of the First Amendment and the Primary Document Analysis Template Sheet to students and allow them time to answer the questions. Discuss their responses. Encourage students to lead the discussion.

  2. Have a student read aloud the entire First Amendment and have students list on the board some real-world situations that relate to the First Amendment. Some responses might include:
      flag burning, protesting a war, wearing certain apparel, picketing a private residence, worshiping demonic spirits, the Internet, banning teens from malls, demonstrations near schools, prayer in schools

    Ask students which of these activities are protected by the First Amendment.

  3. Have students create a poster or draw a political cartoon reflecting the importance of one of the First Amendment rights today. Have students share their cartoons/posters.

Summary/ Assessment
Ask students to write a brief essay titled "Life Without First Amendment Rights."


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