Freedom of Speech: Finding the Limits

Lesson Duration

Author:   Linda Weber for Sunnylands Seminars 2009, Annenberg Classroom

When people bring their First Amendment challenges into the court system and decisions are made, principles get established that help define the boundaries of free speech for everyone. In this lesson, students gain insight into the many challenges involved in defining and protecting free speech. They also learn about principles that come from Supreme Court decisions and case law that are applied to define the limits for us today.


  • State the constitutional basis for freedom of speech.
  • Explain the importance of free speech in a democratic society.
  • Explain events that prompted courts to define principles for deciding free speech issues.
  •  Develop an appreciation for the complexities involved in finding the limits to free speech.
  • Draw conclusions about the role of citizens in defining free speech for all Americans.
  • Use sound reasoning to defend a position.


The Annenberg Foundation is a private family foundation that provides funding and support to nonprofit organizations in the United States and globally. The Foundation and its Board of Directors are also directly involved in the community with innovative projects that further its mission to advance the public well-being through improved communication. The Foundation encourages the development of effective ways to share ideas and knowledge.