Sample Teaching Plans: US Democracy and First Amendment

2021 NEH Project [1]
Students study types of social movements, stances on protest and injustice, and May 4. Employing a decision tree, they answer, “Where is that line for me? At what point should action be taken, if at all?”

American History Unit [2]
Multiple perspectives on the causes and consequences of May 4, so as to truly make each student able to connect events of the past to their lives today. Considerations include: invisibility of minorities, inflammatory rhetoric, media responsibilities, humanizing victims, power of youth movements. Interactions promoting historical thinking include the Stanford Lunchroom Fight simulation and students sharing exhibits created in the spirit of one of the 3 themes of the May 4 Visitors Center: Social Justice, Generation Gap, Vietnam War.

And the Children will Lead Them - Youth Activism [5]
Students begin by considering Can young people change society? through examining youth activism in the Civil Rights Movement. Protests at Orangeburg, Kent State, and Jackson State prompt the question Is nonviolent protest an effective method for change? Discussion carries over to today’s movements. Writing assignments incl. letters to the editor, analysis of Tinker v. Des Moines, and creative work or Ted Talk/other presentation.

Creating Student Organizations [7]
Coursework preceding study of May 4 includes study of prominent civil rights figures, student organizations, and Orangeburg/Kent State/Jackson State. Students understand May 4 through small group creation of an advocacy organization with website relating mission statement; logo; poster; song (using current one with their issue); testimonial on an org event. Students also create speech as if one were addressing crowd at the Victory Bell during May 4 and consider dynamic between law enforcement and dissenters then & now.

Dissent, the First Amendment, and Social Change [8]
Plan for a collaborative semester-long course featuring a mock trial, readers theater, speakers, and choice of protest movement to research. Students share that work in a community storywalk, along with a documentary on their final community action project.

Film class unit plan [12]
To begin, students evaluate scenarios detailing civil disobedience and consider which action was most admirable or most fitting or required a better response. Vietnam era film study includes live script reading of Remember My Lai. Understanding that they’re hearing varying perspectives on the massacre, students proceed from My Lai to May 4 and each sharing striking lines from an oral history of May 4 and connect their cumulative understanding to striking Vietnam veteran artwork.

Is Dissent a Crime? [16]
Is dissent a crime? Students respond via blackout poetry from documents including Letter from a Birmingham Jail; US Supreme Court decisions on student free speech rights; quantified costs; cultural artifacts; current events; and evidence of the May 4 site & its educational installations.

Kent State Lesson Plan [19]
US Supreme Court decisions affecting pre-college student rights; one most important to each student. May 4: Doug Wrentmore interview; why didn’t students leave area?; who was responsible? May 4 meaning for citizens & dissenters today. Activities incl. creating late night talk show and a debate.

Kent State Lesson Plans [20]
Perspectives of US personnel who served in Vietnam; repercussions of the war & May 4 in Iowa; civil rights; student speech rights; antiwar protest; Orangeburg/Kent State/Jackson State.

KSU Shootings [26]
Previous study includes Nixon’s Cambodia invasion announcement and his calling student protestors “bums.” Sources to build understanding of May 4 include photos, “Ohio,” site visit and maps, chronology. Students select from a project choice board that includes: what they’d have done on May 4; prosecution of the 28 guardsmen who fired; creative work; comparing Orangeburg, Kent State, Jackson State; Supreme Court decisions on student free speech; and bios of Allison Krause, Jeff Miller, Sandy Scheuer, and Bill Schroeder, killed by guardsmen on May 4.

Making Meaning of May 4th: The 1970 Kent State Shootings in US History [32]
Students examine and construct arguments on May 4 in the context of the First Amendment & US Supreme Court interpretations of their free speech rights and perspectives they learn on the National Guard.

May 4 1970 Unit Outline: Lesson Plans [35]
Documentary background and close reading of a May 4 photo initiate students’ May 4 study, followed by creation of a multitiered timeline. Frames include the First Amendment & decision makers/decisions made. Meaning is made of a May 4 photo compared to a Jan. 6, 2021, photo. Synthesizing follows.

May 4, 1970 Unit Plan [36]
A focus on the student protest movement and counterculture of the long sixties has students looking at: protest songs for Americans’ response to the war; reflections of the counterculture in May 4; an Upstander from these movements who made social change; similarities between Boomers and Gen Z; and the importance of the First Amendment to protest then and now.

May 4th 1970 Unit Plan [37]
Builds upon preceding coverage of the Vietnam War and continues the theme expressed in the 1619 Project that “Black folks and African Americans have played a central role in making the US realize or attempt to realize its highest ideals: freedom, equality, democracy, equity.”

May 4th Inquiry: IB History of the Americas [38]
Students’ preceding work views the Vietnam War as a case study for how well American democracy functions. This line of inquiry is repeated for May 4, regarding which students select a focus from one of 8 elements of democracy spelling out R-E-S-P-E-C-T, such as R is for rights.

NEH Making Meaning of May 4 1970: Pedagogy Project [42]
Students see the lasting positive change resulting from student protest movements—with a few examples being the Voting Rights and Fair Housing Acts and diverse faculty across the country—while understanding that significant obstacles remain today to civil rights and many forms of equality. Sources incl.: The War at Home; The Fog of War; To Kill a Mockingbird. Topics incl.: draft—lottery/end; Dow Chemical protests; successes and failures; arrogance of power

NEH Workshop Lesson Plan [43]
Created for a school of the arts history class, and contextualizing May 4 within the Cold War and Vietnam War, this plan encourages students to explore subjects tied to their interest, such as poetry of Yusef Komunyakaa;
protest songs/album covers, posters, photographs, music. Study concludes with May 4 as a First Amendment story.

Social Studies Choice Board Options [50] - created as collaboration with projects 27 and 40
This social studies component of a collaborative, cross-disciplinary approach features choice board options: compare/contrast the Boston Massacre & Kent State Shootings; reliability of May 4 sources; First Amendment freedoms/boundaries and absence of freedoms in another country. Activities include visiting the May 4 site and a final reflection read by teachers of 4 subject areas.

The Day the World Heard: Kent State and Gallaudet University [55]
Recommended especially for ASL, ELA, and history classes, students compare/contrast May 4 and Gallaudet University’s Deaf President Now protest. They apply the First Amendment to determine Were the protests peaceful? And discuss benefits/negative outcomes of protest. Activities incl. creating a graphic storyboard.

Turbulent Times of the 1960s-1970s: Anti-Vietnam War Focus [57]
Look in this plan for engaging techniques—and the theme of voice sounded throughout: strengthening one’s voice; Nick Saban’s voice commenting on May 4; the draft negating one’s voice; perception changing how one’s voice is heard; was the voice of the hawk or the dove stronger?; is one’s voice heard more loudly through music and art? Included is an artwork created by Sandy Scheuer and Jeff Miller shortly before they were killed on May 4—swirls of deep colors, with the embedded message “Who Is To Say?"

Unit Plan: Topics of the 60s [59]
Opening up the history of May 4 through several lenses and a range of activities, this plan creates space for students to process their feelings and views. They progress through the draft lottery; First Amendment; protest; the May 4 site; and the federal civil trial brought by the May 4 families. They blog, reflect, analyze, create a digital collage for a public gallery walk, and conduct an oral history with someone who experienced the long sixties.

Were 1st Amendment rights violated on the Kent State Campus on May 4, 1970? [63]
Students look through frames including the First Amendment; US Supreme Court decisions; patterns during the long sixties; messages of protest music; May 4 chronology; the lives of Allison, Bill, Sandy, and Jeff; witness accounts; and evidence of the historic site to gauge the balance of rights and injustice and reflect on connections to their own lives.

What was the cause of the Kent State Shooting? [64]
Multiple perspectives/types of sources—testimonial, chronological, comparable, legal—prepare students to consider motive and justice in the Kent State shootings case & student activism then and now.