School Improvement in Maryland

Lesson Seeds: The lesson seeds are ideas for the indicator/objective that can be used to build a lesson. Lesson seeds are not meant to be all-inclusive, nor are they substitutes for instruction.

Standard 1.0 Political Science

Topic C. Protecting Rights and Maintaining Order

Indicator 1. Examine the impact of governmental decisions on individual rights and responsibilities in the United States

Objective a. Describe responsibilities associated with certain basic rights of citizens, such as freedom of speech, religion, and press, and explain why these responsibilities are important

The full plan for the first part of this activity can be found at, as well as in Unit Five of the Level 1 We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution text. Even though the lesson is intended for upper elementary students, the content of the discussion is appropriate for Grade 8 as well.

Post the expression “Freedom isn’t free” on the board or screen and ask the students what is meant by this. When the discussion reaches the point where students correctly state/realize that along with freedoms citizens enjoy come responsibilities, announce that today, the class will examine some important examples of responsibilities citizens must fulfill in order for democracy to survive.

Divide the class into five groups, each corresponding to a basic right protected by the Constitution (right to free expression, freedom of religion, the right to be treated equally, the right to be treated fairly by the government, and the right to vote and run for office). In whole class discussion, begin by reviewing the meaning and Constitutional origin of each of the freedoms. Then ask the students to comment on how each freedom is necessary for proper operation of a democratic system of government. Tell the students that today they will examine scenarios that will help them to identify responsibilities that come along with these rights.

In groups, present students with scenarios similar to (or the same as) those found at the Center for Civic Education’s Web page (linked above). Direct each group to discuss the questions and prepare to briefly share findings with the whole class. Then, based on the discussion, have each group identify responsibilities that accompany the right their group was assigned.

Following this activity, see if the students can identify examples of times during early U.S. history (the pre-Civil War period is probably the best example) when citizens failed to live up to the responsibilities identified in the earlier activity. (For example, citizens’ failure to disagree civilly during “Bleeding Kansas” or on the floor of the U.S. Senate). What were the consequences of these failures?

Resources for Objective 1.C.1.a:
Clarifications | LESSON SEEDS | Sample Assessments | Resource Links