USIA English Language Programs

English Teaching Forum

Return to Main Page



Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10


Civic Education Volume

Navigation Bar


Chapter 2

Individual Freedoms: Freedom of Expression

Classroom Applications

The 50-minute lesson plan which follows highlights select issues related to the theme of this chapter: individual freedoms. Teachers are encouraged to adapt this lesson to the language and content learning needs of their students. Adjustments can easily be made so that the lesson matches the needs of low- or high-proficiency English language learners.

Preliminary Lesson Planning

Materials: For Activity 2, compile sets of three scenarios--highlighting issues related to individual freedoms--for each group of students. Choose from the scenarios listed in Appendix A or create scenarios of your own that highlight issues of concern to your students. Each scenario should depict a situation in which at least one individual freedom might need to be limited. Scenarios can be used with more than one group.

Student grouping decisions: Decide on procedures for grouping students for Activities 1 and 2; participants will remain in the same groups for both activities. It is recommended that groups have no more than six participants each. If appropriate, make up tentative lists of group members. Make last minute adjustments when it is determined which students are actually in class.

Vocabulary considerations: Consider the vocabulary that students need to know to complete the lesson successfully. Determine which vocabulary items the students already know and which items they will need to be introduced to. Some important terms, and their definitions, are included in a glossary in Appendix B. Items listed in the glossary are written in bold print the first time they are mentioned in the lesson plan.

Warm Up Activity (5-10 minutes)


  • To stimulate student interest in the topic of individual freedoms
  • To draw upon students' background knowledge
  • To introduce vocabulary that will facilitate successful completion of the lesson

  1. Write the following list of five freedoms on the blackboard:

    Freedom of speech
    Freedom of press
    Freedom of assembly
    Freedom of religion
    Freedom of conscience

    (If you do not think your students will understand this terminology, use key words from the definitions provided in the Background Information section of this chapter to explain their meanings.)

  2. Ask students what comes to mind when they think about these freedoms. Write key words and phrases, from student responses, on the blackboard next to each freedom. (Once again, refer to the Background Information section for some possible key words and concepts.)

  3. Ask students if they want to add other individual freedoms to the list on the blackboard. If students respond to your request, ask contributors to define the freedom for their classmates. Put key words on the blackboard.

Transition from Warm Up to Activity #1

Tell students that the class session will be devoted to exploring the individual freedoms listed on the blackboard.

Activity #1 (approximately 15-20 minutes)
  • To provide students with opportunities to use English in a meaningful way
  • To rank order individual freedoms and come to a group consensus on the importance of different freedoms
  • To give students the chance to use key vocabulary and concepts associated with the theme of the lesson


  1. Ask students to work individually to rank the freedoms listed on the blackboard from most important (1) to least important (5). (If students have expanded the original list of five freedoms to include new items, the number associated with the least important category will have to change so that one number can be assigned to each freedom on the blackboard.) Remind students that there are no right or wrong answers. Circulate while students are completing their rankings to make sure everyone completes the assignment; help students who are having difficulties.

  2. Assign students to groups. Ask groups to do the following:

    a. Discuss and compare rankings
    . Explain reasons for ranking decisions
    c. Agree on a group ranking; come to a group consensus

    Circulate in the classroom while student groups are working. For groups that have difficulties reaching a consensus, ask them to try to agree on only the most and least important freedoms. For groups that finish much earlier than other groups, ask them to identify the most controversial freedoms and to discuss the nature of the controversies.

  3. Ask volunteers from each group to report on group decisions. Focus on those freedoms considered to be most important and least important. As each group reports to the class, record responses on the blackboard by putting a check plus (check+) next to the freedoms considered most important and a check minus (check-) next to the freedoms considered least important. If time permits, ask group members to provide a rationale for their decisions.

Do not erase the blackboard. Come back to it at the end of the lesson as a way to provide meaningful closure to the lesson.

Activity #2 (approximately 20 minutes)


  • To provide students with opportunities to use English in a meaningful way
  • To reinforce key vocabulary and concepts associated with the theme of the lesson
  • To explore the intricacies of the freedoms listed on the blackboard


  1. Ask students to think about the freedoms listed on the board. Should the freedoms ever be limited? When? Under what circumstances?

  2. Ask students to consider the following situation: A teenager, in a movie theater, yells "fire" even though there is no fire.

    a. Should the teenager be allowed to yell, "fire"? Why? Why not?

    b. Which freedoms are being questioned here?

  3. Ask students to work in their original groups. Give each group a set of three (or four) scenarios from Appendix A. For each scenario, students should consider the following questions:

    a. Which freedom(s) is being questioned?

    b. Should the freedom be limited? Why? Why not?

  4. As students are beginning to finish up their group discussions, ask each group to identify the most controversial scenario.

  5. Ask a volunteer from each group to comment on the most controversial scenario to classmates from other groups.

Cool Down Activity (approximately 5 minutes)


  • To provide some closure to lesson
  • To give students an opportunity to discuss relevance of lesson


  1. Remind students that, at the beginning of class, they identified certain freedoms as being more important than others are. Point to freedoms marked with a check plus   (check+) on the blackboard. Ask students if they still agree with their original decisions. Ask for comments.
  2. If time permits, ask students to think about the class session on individual freedoms. Pose questions such as the following:

    a. What did you learn in class today?

    b. What differences in opinion did you hear today?

    c. Should some individual freedoms be limited? If so, under what conditions?


Possible Extensions to Lesson

  1. Ask students any of these questions to extend the lesson.

    a. Why is it important to protect freedom of expression: freedoms of speech, press, assembly, religion, and conscience?

    b. Why are restrictions of freedoms based on time, place, and manner sometimes necessary?

    c. How does the principle of "separation of church and state" relate to individual freedoms, in particular, freedom of religion?

    d. What can a society do to find a proper balance between individual freedoms and the rights and interests of the larger society?

    e. Why do you think so many nations have not been able to live up to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?

  2. Ask groups of students to write up new scenarios that highlight the discord between individual freedoms and societal interests. They can be asked to present the scenarios to their classmates, identify the freedom(s) involved, and explain possible restrictions.

  3. Ask students to list (and then present) arguments in favor of and against an individual freedom.

Refer to the websites listed in the next section of this chapter for more information and lesson planning ideas.


Continue to next page

Return to top of page


Classroom Applications Appendix Internet Resources Background
On October 1, 1999, the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs will become part of the
U.S. Department of State. Bureau webpages are being updated accordingly. Thank you for your patience.