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Jessika Richter
Jessika Richter
(Lund - Sweden)

The short and sweet: I have been a passionate teacher since 2001.  I first worked with the National Park Service in Washington (state), then moved to Australia where I completed my DipEd at the University of Melbourne and then taught at Hailebury  ...

Constitutional Amendment Lesson Plans

Constitutional Amendments and their Importance

Students will create a Prezi on what they believe to be the most important amendment to the Constitution.

Open or Download This File:


Preamble to the United States Constitution and Media

The 2nd Amendment and You

This lesson teaches students about the 2nd Amendment and how it is represented in the media. It also allows them to express their views on the 2nd Amendment through the use of various media sources.

Open or Download This File:




Through this lesson, the student will come to understand the historical significance of the Supreme Court case Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier as well as the case's impact on today's public schools. The student also will apply his/her research skills to the study of the recent history of censorship and how the courts have been involved in either protecting or limiting student expression.

Materials You Will Need:

PDF - Background Overview
PDF - Glossary of terms

Supreme Court ruling on Hazelwood case

Selected articles from the Student Press Law Center: South Dakota judge orders meetings open

School should not have censored Bush t-shirt, court says

Supreme Court urged to review 'Bong Hits 4 Jesus' case

Administrators censored teen pregnancy info, student editor says

Supreme Court declines case involving kindergarten student's Jesus poster

Students sue administrators alleging censorship; ask for adviser's reinstatement

New policy closes what students say is ‘open forum’ newspaper

Current Newsplashes and archives

PDF - Scenarios worksheet
PDF - Extension activity explanation


1. Either individually or in groups, have the students carefully read the background overview, the glossary of relevant terms and the selected articles. Allow them time to take notes on the readings (which may be assigned prior to the lesson). 2. Divide the class into teams of 3-4 students each. Then have each group review and briefly discuss the following hypothetical situations:

  • A student-run newspaper features an investigative article on a past misdemeanor marijuana conviction of a teacher in the school. For the sake of privacy, the conviction had been kept from the knowledge of the greater school community, including parents, teachers and most administrators.
  • A student literary magazine includes a thinly veiled story about the sexual activities of school athletes. The names are fabricated, but the setting and situations are remarkably similar to the school's own and are therefore easily identifiable.
  • A student-led petition is disseminated on school grounds seeking support for the reprimand of a history teacher who had punished a student for her outspoken views against the war in Iraq. The teacher justified sending the student out of the class by arguing that her "unruly, one-sided opinions were becoming a serious disruption."


3. Next, using the chart provided on the scenarios worksheet, have the groups ask the following questions to determine whether, in accordance with the Hazelwood decision, each case above warrants censorship by the school.

  • Is the instance of expression one that would "substantially interfere with the work of the school or impinge upon the rights of other students?"
  • Would there be a legitimate educational reason for the administration to limit or disallow the expression?
  • According to the Supreme Court's 1988 ruling, would the administration be legally permitted to exercise censorship?


4. Come back together as a class, and have a representative summarize his/her group's judgments. Compare the judgments and their justifications among the different groups.

5. Lastly, to encourage deeper consideration of the issues, pose the following questions to the class (these may also be used as writing prompts or extension-activity questions):

  • If you were an administrator in a similar position to those in the Hazelwood case, how would you rule on the issues? Would you side with the students and allow for open expression? Or would you be more restrictive in order to satisfy the demands of certain parents, students and teachers?
  • What could be the consequences, both positive and negative, of allowing unfettered (uncensored) student expression on school grounds? Who could get hurt and/or who could benefit?

Extension Activities:

Assign the class to research and analyze other recent instances of censorship of student expression by consulting the SPLC archives or other sources.

The research may be done in teams or individually, and the following questions may be used to guide the process.

Answers may be written in essay form or presented orally:

  • In your research, how often is the First Amendment quoted or referenced? When referenced, how is it used? To defend individual liberties? To clarify arguments? To show the limits of expression?
    Comparatively, how credible are the arguments for each side? In other words, how convincingly do the administrators make their case to censor student publications, and how convincingly do the students and/or teachers defend themselves?
  • Based on your research, how much of an impact do you think Hazelwood has had on student expression nationwide? Is it truly relevant? Do you think it has impacted your own school? Should it be overturned in the courts? Should it be upheld?
  • Again, what could be the consequences, both positive and negative, of allowing unfettered (uncensored) student expression on school grounds? In what ways have you experienced the consequences yourself?
For detailed explanations, please consult:
Curriculum Standards

Standard 2: Time, Continuity and Change
Standard 3: People, Places and Environments
Standard 4: Individual Development and Identity
Standard 5: Individuals, Groups and Institutions
Standard 10: Civic Ideals and Practices

Standard 1: History
Standard 3: Civics and Government


Estimated Time
one to two class periods, plus extended activities
Grade Level
Grades 9-12



The 14th Amendment

Bill of Rights

To examine amendments to the constituiton through the issue of gay marriage.
Through this lesson, the student will come to understand the history and process of amending the U.S. Constitution, particularly in light of the current issue facing the courts of legalizing gay marriage.

Article V of the U.S. Constitution outlines the procedure for modifying, or amending, its content. Since 1789 (when the Constitution was officially accepted, or ratified, by all states) there have been only 27 amendments out of the thousands proposed by lawmakers in Congress. In fact, the 27th Amendment, which concerns congressional pay, was originally proposed in 1789 but not put into place until 1992 -- over 200 years later.

As Article V states, there are technically two ways to amend the Constitution. The first requires that both houses of Congress (the Senate and the House of Representatives) agree by a two-thirds vote on an amendment.

The next step is to have the proposed amendment ratified by three-fourths of the state legislatures (or, in rare instances, by special state conventions). The second method has never been utilized in the Constitution's history. It requires that two-thirds of the states call for a special constitutional convention during which the amendment is proposed. Three-fourths of the states must then ratify the amendment for it to become official.

Clearly, amendments to the Constitution do not come easily. The 13th Amendment, outlawing slavery, emerged from the ashes of the Civil War and was ratified Dec. 18, 1865. The 19th Amendment (ratified Aug. 26, 1920) granted women the right to vote after more than a century of lobbying and activism.

Currently, the United States is embroiled in a debate over whether there should be an amendment to the Constitution that would define marriage as the legal union between a man and a woman. This debate is a direct result of the decision by some state courts that homosexuals cannot be denied the benefits and recognition of a legal marriage.

In 1996, President Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage to be a "legal union between one man and one woman." Many other political leaders, Republicans and Democrats alike, have aligned themselves with this.

President Obama supports full civil unions, federal recognition of LGBT couples and voted against the Federal Marriage Amendment in 2006 but has said that marriage is between a man and a woman.

Several religious institutions, most recently the Catholic Church, have formally renounced the idea of same-sex marriage, referring to religious texts that define marriage as solely the union of a man and woman.

Supporters of gay marriage stress, though, that not only are they seeking to protect civil liberties (often citing the 14th Amendment), they are also seeking to protect their families; over a million children nationwide are currently in the care of homosexual parents.

The way the federal laws are currently written, gay parents in times of crisis (such as when a child is seriously sick or injured and must be hospitalized) are not afforded the same rights as married (or legally divorced) straight parents.

Several states now have gay marriage or grant rights to gay couples under civil unions. If history is a guide, an actual amendment to the U.S. Constitution defining marriage is unlikely. Nonetheless, the issue is bound to spark debate for some time, both within the courts and in the public.

1. Have students carefully read the background information and the the latest headlines online. For more detailed information, have students look at the Online NewsHour Special Report:The Battle Over Same-Sex Marriage.

2. Discuss both readings either as a class or in small groups.

3. Next have students examine the 14th Amendment in order to answer the following questions:

  • The 14th Amendment does not directly concern marriage. How, then, could it be interpreted as guaranteeing the right to marry?
  • In what ways could this amendment actually preserve marriage as being only between a man and a woman? In other words, how could it be used to support both sides of the issue?
  • How could the 14th Amendment be used to protect other civil liberties? Does it imply protection for the rights of children? For convicted criminals?
4. Discuss the responses as a class.

Extension Activities
I: Marriage as an institution

In order to have the students understand the institution of marriage on a deeper level, have them discuss:

  • In our society, why do people get married? Are there other reasons beyond the traditional?
  • If a heterosexual married couple chose not to -- or could not -- have children, would their union be different from a gay couple? Does the ability to have children in part define the institution of marriage?
  • If gay marriage becomes widely accepted, could it lead to the appeal for the acceptance of other nontraditional forms of marriage (such as between minors)?
II:News coverage of the issue

Have the students analyze the recent media coverage of the issue of gay marriage and respond to the following questions. The questions might be addressed in the form of an essay, through an oral presentation or by a graphic representation.

  • In general, how much coverage has the media given to the issue?
  • How is the print coverage different from television or radio coverage? Which is more comprehensive?
  • Comparing the coverage from other nations, what observations can you make? Do more secular nations view the issue differently from nations with a more religious population?
  • How have statistics been used by the media in this case? How often are people's views surveyed and documented? How representative are those surveys? How are the statistics used to defend various groups' stances on the issue?
III: Amending the Bill of Rights

Assign the students to write their own amendments to the Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution. In order to do so, they must first closely read the Bill of Rights and decide which amendment they wish to modify. Then, have them carefully compose a paragraph that: 1) directly addresses an issue in the amendment, and 2) offers specific modifications to the amendment. You may wish to use the following questions to guide the activity:

  • The First Amendment provides the fundamental freedoms that so many Americans cherish. Is there any part of it that you could amend to either expand the freedoms that Americans have or to limit them?
  • The Second Amendment concerns the right to "keep and bear arms." How could this amendment be redefined to reflect our current society and the wide spread use of handguns?
  • The Fourth Amendment is often criticized because it can limit the investigative powers of law-enforcement officials. If you were to amend the Fourth Amendment, how might you grant the executive branch (which includes law enforcement) more latitude in how they conduct investigations and arrests?
Thematic Standards Standard

4: Individual Development and Identity Standard

5: Individuals, Groups and Institutions Standard

6: Power, Authority and Governance Standard

9: Global Connections Standard

10: Civic Ideals and Practices

Disciplinary Standards Standard

1: History Standard

3: Civics and Government

Women's Movement Lesson Plan

Women’s Movement Lesson Plan


California History/Social Science Standards


11.10.7 Analyze the women's rights movement from the era of Elizabeth Stanton and Susan Anthony and the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the movement launched in the 1960s, including differing perspectives on the roles of women.



  1. Elizabeth Cady Stanton
  2. Susan B. Anthony
  3. Declaration of Sentiments 
  4. 19th Amendment


Essential Question: How did women reform society?



  • Socratic Seminar: Students will perform a Socratic Seminar that discusses the themes of the women’s rights movement
  • Song: Students will design a song based on the ideals of the women’s rights movement.


Day 1

Time: 1.5 hours

Objective: To learn about significant civil rights decisions that effected women 






Warm up:  Describe the most influential woman in your life.




Women’s Rights Songs

Listen to the two songs. 

  1. How are they similar?  Different?
  2. What do they say about women’s roles in society?   


Song tracks

“I’m Just a Girl”


Women’s Rights Songs


Read Declaration of Sentiments


-          Highlight main ideas

-          Write questions in the margins

-          Discuss in pairs



Seneca Falls Declaration


Answer questions/ Come up with questions for the Seminar


Socratic Seminar Notes


HW:  Re-read text.  Prepare to ask good questions in the Seminar. 





Day 2

Time: 1 hour

Objective: Discuss the meaning and context of the Declaration of Sentiments





Warm up: Review Socratic Seminar Procedures

-          Listen to each other and take notes

-          Speak loudly and clearly

-          Take turns speaking

-          Offer ideas and insights that are clear and logical

-          Use text to support your opinions




-          Refer to Sentence Stems for Classroom Discussion Poster/Worksheet

-          Start with opening question: Who is writing and why? 

-          Core questions:

o       Why do you think this declaration is modeled after the Declaration of Independence? 

o       Identify the major grievances in the Declaration.

o       Which complaint is the most serious?

-          Final question

o       What role should women have in society?  Why?

-          Encourage students to ask/answer each other’s questions based on the text throughout the seminar


Socratic Seminar Rubric

Sentence Stems for Classroom Discussion

Self Assessment


Socratic Seminar Rubric

HW:  Reflect on how you did on the Socratic Seminar.  Post reflection to Ning. 





Day 3

Time: 1.5 hours

Objective: To evaluate the impact of the Nineteenth Amendment and other political reforms






Warm up




Explore the PBS website: Not for Ourselves


Complete “Not of Ourselves” worksheet


Internet access


Not of Ourselves Worksheet


Write a song that tells the story of the Women’s Rights Movement



Criteria Chart

Groups of Four

Present song to class



Whole Class

HW: Post your song to Ning and comment on other team’s songs. 






Unit 2: The Constitution and the United States

Weeks 3-4: MySpace in Democracy (1st Amendment and Cyber Rights / Webquest)

Chapter 10: Civil Liberties: The Bill of Rights Today

Chapter 11: Civil Rights