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Introduction to the First Amendment: What’s a Violation?

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Students apply their knowledge of the First Amendment to specific scenarios to determine when those freedoms are protected and when they are not.

GRADE LEVEL: Elementary and middle school

TIME: 30-60 minutes

MATERIALS: First Amendment Scenarios handout and What’s A Violation? worksheet (download), answer key (included at the end of this packet)


  1. Copy the scenarios and the worksheet, one for each student or small group.
  2. Review the answer key to assist with student discussion.


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Overview PDF DOC
Worksheets PDF DOC
Extensions PDF DOC
Full Packet PDF DOC

To request a large print or Braille version, call 202.292.6650.


  1. Tell your students you’re going to talk about the First Amendment. Ask if they can name and define each of the five freedoms, and give examples of ways they exercise each freedom. Write the five freedoms on the board and make sure your students understand what each one means:
    • Religion – You can believe what you want, belong to any religion or no religion.
    • Speech – You can voice your opinions using words, symbols or actions.
    • Press – The government cannot censor information in newspapers, online news sources, TV news broadcasts, etc.
    • Assembly – You can gather in a group.
    • Petition – You can criticize the government, and you can complain about policies that affect you negatively and ask for change.
  2. Then, ask students if these freedoms are protected in all situations or could there be exceptions? What about at home? In schools? In newspapers?
  3. Now tell the students they will review different situations related to the First Amendment freedoms and decide which scenarios show a violation of First Amendment freedoms and which do not.
  4. Divide class into four groups.  Distribute the scenarios to each student and one worksheet to each group.  Ask the students to read the scenarios for each First Amendment freedom and vote as a group on each one. Assign one student to compile the student answers on the worksheet.
  5. Once the groups have completed the worksheets have them present their answers to the full class.


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Were their differences of opinion among the groups?  Prompt students to defend their reasoning.  Do they see patterns of what is protected by the First Amendment and what isn’t? Use the answer key to support additional discussion.

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