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Making a Change: The First Amendment and the Civil Rights Movement

See how advocates for — and against — change in the civil rights era leveraged the five freedoms of the First Amendment to make their voices heard.

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Civil Rights: Reporting Out

SUMMARY: Students prepare for a lifelong practice of civic engagement by identifying, analyzing and reporting about a contemporary civil rights issue.

GRADE LEVEL: Middle and high school

TIME: More than 90 minutes

MATERIALS: Analyzing an Issue and Information Campaign worksheets (download), Reporter’s Questions and Consumer’s Questions handouts (download), Internet access


  1. Make copies of the worksheets, one per student.
  2. Make copies of the Reporter’s Questions and Consumer’s Questions handouts, one per student.


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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.


(Note: For more support, see expanded procedure in downloadable lesson plan.)

  1. Ask students to define civil rights, based on previous class discussions.
  2. After a common definition is established, brainstorm contemporary local, regional and national civil rights issues.
  3. Have the class choose an issue to analyze. Find a recent article and analyze it as a class with the Analyzing an Issue worksheet.
  4. Next pair the students and have them select a modern civil rights issue and use the second worksheet to create an information campaign.
  5. Last, have students share their information campaign and ask for feedback. After they revise their plans they should implement them and report the outcomes of their work to the class.
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Have students share their work and discuss their findings.

  • Reflect on what the students learned, and what, if anything, they would do differently to reach their goals.
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  1. Civil Rights Expo: Get the community involved! Have students plan and host a “civil rights expo” to share their projects with others at school, in their neighborhoods and beyond. Make sure students ask for reactions and feedback from their guests, which they can use to revise their projects. Students may want to invite their school paper, local media outlets and historical societies to the expo as well.
  1. At the Newseum: Visit the exhibit called “Make Some Noise: Students and the Civil Rights Movement.” Ask your students to evaluate the ways in which young people got involved in the movement. Which methods or approaches worked? Which did not? Why? Students should then review and revise their “Information Campaigns” to reflect lessons learned from their predecessors’ campaign results. 


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