Freedom of Speech and Automatic Language

Lesson Duration

Author: Dawn Hogue for ReadWriteThink

Most students in American classrooms know the words to the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance. The words are a kind of automatic language. We say them easily—perhaps every day, but we may not think in detail about what we are saying. This lesson plan asks students to explore this rote learning and their own right to freedom of speech by examining the Pledge of Allegiance from a historical and personal perspective and in relationship to fictional situations in novels they have read. Using a novel such as Speak by Laurie Halse Andersen or Nothing But the Truth by Avi, students learn how the novel’s protagonist and other characters in the story deal with free speech issues in varying ways and are invited to think about pledges that they are willing to make and how they express their freedom of speech.


Students will

  • explore the history and meaning of the Pledge of Allegiance.
  • define critical words in the Pledge, focusing on their intention and meaning.
  • read the First Amendment and discuss the right of citizens to speak freely or to not speak, as they choose.
  • make connections between the novel and fictional characters and their own free speech choices.
  • write an original pledge that promises to be true or faithful to something important to them.



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