Fayette v. Take Two: The First Amendment

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Lesson At A Glance

This lesson follows lessons introducing the structure of the federal judicial branch and the rights included within the federal Bill of Rights. Students have already participated in a “Bill of Rights Scramble” activity where they have gained an understanding of the basic rights protected under the aforementioned document as well as lessons outlining the structure and function of the U.S. Supreme Court. They have also read and discussed cases relevant to the simulated case that they will be ruling upon.


  • Students will identify societal conflicts inherent within free speech rights.
  • Students will analyze opposing perspectives regarding free speech rights and limitations and draw their own conclusions based on a simulated case.
  • Students will develop a basic understanding of how the Supreme Court decides a case.

Standards Addressed:

8.2 Students analyze the political principles underlying the U.S. Constitution and compare the enumerated and implied powers of the federal government. 

      #6. Enumerate the powers of government set forth in the Constitution and the fundamental liberties ensured by the Bill of Rights.

      #7. Describe the principles of federalism, dual sovereignty, separation of powers, checks and balances, and the nature and purpose of majority rule, and the ways in which the American idea of constitutionalism preserves individual rights.

8.3 Students understand the foundation of the American political system and the ways in which citizens participate in it.

      #6. Describe the basic lawmaking process and how the Constitution provides numerous opportunities for citizens to participate in the political process and to monitor and influence government.

      #7. Understand the function and responsibilities of a free press.

Craft and Structure
College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Writing Grades 6-12

Text Types and Purposes

1. Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.

Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts and Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects

College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Reading Grades 6-12

Key Ideas and Details

1.  Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.

1.   Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text.

9. Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

Research to Build and Present Knowledge

10. Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.


Big Ideas:

  1. Democracy requires citizen involvement in the lawmaking process. Student engagement increases those chances later in life.
  2. Educated citizens, familiar with the big questions as well as the mechanics of our lawmaking process, are the foundation of our system of government.

Essential Questions/Issues:

  1. First Amendment Rights such as free speech are the cornerstone of our democracy.
  2. First Amendment Rights are not absolute, generate conflict, and are open to judicial interpretation.

Higher Order Thinking Questions:

  1. Are there limits to freedom of speech? (Evaluation)
  2. Should limits be placed on free speech? (Application, Synthesis in a mock case)
  3. Do limits on freedom of speech jeopardize democracy? (Evaluation)
  4. What rights or securities can be compromised by unabridged free speech? (Analysis)
  5. Should the government regulate, or should the citizenry “self-regulate” forms of free speech available in the marketplace? (Evaluation)
  6. Is there a point where government is obligated to regulate free speech in the public interest? (Application, Analysis)
  7. Should the majority forgo certain forms of free speech in order to protect the rights of a minority? (Evaluation)
  8. Can criminal acts be linked to free speech? (Evaluation)
  9. What First Amendment conflicts are posed by social networking? (Synthesis)


Students will write a “justice’s opinion” and apply first amendment interpretations to a simulated case. From there they will use their written opinions to discuss and debate the issue to try to arrive at a consensus in small groups. There will be a debrief discussion as well.

Click here to download the assessment tools.

Activity Steps:

Click here to download activity steps

This lesson usually takes two to three class periods. We begin with a brainstorm/or pair share that addresses the question “Why is free speech important?” or “Why did the Founders list it first?” This is followed by an activity in which we look at the specific language of the First Amendment with a focus on the word “abridge”. We then look at some summaries of previous court cases that are relevant to the case they will be ruling upon. I then introduce the simulated case and lead a class discussion about the case. Students begin taking notes in their packets. Students then view the 60 Minutes video and continue taking notes about evidence on both sides of the case. Students then write their own opinions. Next, they meet in small groups to share, and then vote on a group decision. Since there are nine groups, each symbolizes one Supreme Court justice. We discuss the vote and “next steps” once the “court” has ruled.

 Purpose   Teacher   Students

Engage Students

10 -15 minutes 

Use the word “abridged” in several sentences, then revisit text of First Amendment with students.


Acknowledge and list any valid interpretations of the word, and substitute some of them within the text of the First Amendment.

Brainstorm/list possible meanings of the word “abridged” and its meaning within the First Amendment. 

Students record variations.


20 minutes

Share and discuss briefs/summaries of relevant First Amendment court decisions (See relevant Supreme Court cases).
Read and discuss decisions. Ask clarifying questions and discuss rationale of court decisions.

5-10 Minutes

10-15 Minutes

30-40 Minutes

20-30 Minutes

20 Minutes

Pass out lesson packet (see attached packet).

Discuss the “Mock Case Brief”.


Show the 60 Minutes story related to the “Mock Case Brief”. In this instance it is a story about a controversial video game titled “Grand Theft Auto”. Teacher’s can pick and choose other case and media.

Discuss Decision Writing Guidelines.

Facilitate small group (3 to 4 students) sharing and voting. Rules include: 1) The majority in the small group determines the one vote cast by the group. 2) The majority must write a minimum of two rationales for their decision. 3) The minority must write at least one rationale for the dissenting vote(s).

Record group votes, discuss implications, Supreme Court procedures and possible constitutional responses (new legislation, amendment process).

At this point students use prior lessons, or a quick web search to fill in the top of their “Decision Writing Template”.

Students read brief quietly and then participate in class discussion about facts of the case, and relevant Constitutional questions.

Students take notes on their “Justice’s Notes Template” as they watch and then debrief the video.

Students write a draft of their decision in class to be used for small group share the next class session. (9 small groups = 9 Justices

Students share their draft opinions, discuss, debate, vote, and then write brief rationales for their votes (based on their written drafts).

 Beyond  Expand selection of relevant Bill of Rights  cases, adapt activity to other Amendments, find other media sources and current events that can be made into simulated cases. Students can research and find related cases that have been addressed in the California court system. Students can speculate about future cases involving trends in social networking and texting.

Special Needs of students are considered in this lesson: 

GATE: This lesson gives plenty of opportunity for critical thinking, and further case study/exploration. Special Ed: Depending on the learning challenge, steps are easy to modify or differentiate. The video game scenario provides strong visuals related to First Amendment issues. Small groups facilitate inclusion of Special Ed. students in discussion and voting process. ELL: Again, steps can be modified and the topic has a significant visual element. Small groups promote inclusion of ELL students in discussion and voting process.

Extension Ideas:

Other cases can be analyzed in a similar fashion. Students can find cases or controversies in the news that share common threads. A mock Supreme Court can be adapted to this activity.


Materials and Resources Needed: 

  • Student packet (attached)
  • computers with internet access (to find basic information on Supreme Court)
  • relevant case citations and summaries
  • 60 Minutes Video on "Grand Theft Auto"


The Bill of Rights

CBS News Website

Hall, Kermit (1996). America Legal History: Cases and Materials. New York: Oxford University Press.

Hall, Kermit (1999). The Oxford Guide to United States Supreme Court Decisions. New York: Oxford University Press.

Patrick, John (2001). The Supreme Court of the United States: A Student Companion. New York: Oxford University Press.

Relevant Supreme Court Cases

  • Wisconsin v. Mitchell (1993)
  • Brandenburg v. Ohio (1969)
  • Schenck v. United States (1919)


Download student handouts:

Download student handouts here

Outline of A Unit Plan:

This lesson is within an 8th grade unit about the Bill of Rights and focuses on how the Supreme Court operates within the context of a simulated First Amendment case.