Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

Burn Ban?

Texas v. Johnson

Laura Halstied, Keiana Cross | Published: December 8th, 2023 by K20 Center

  • Grade Level Grade Level
  • Subject Subject Social Studies
  • Course Course U.S. Government


In this lesson, students first analyze a quote about free speech before discussing whether the right to free speech is important. Next, students summarize the Texas v. Johnson Supreme Court case before debating whether a constitutional amendment banning flag burning is necessary. Students reflect on their learning by responding to the essential question, “How is free speech protected in the Texas v. Johnson decision?”

Essential Question(s)

How is free speech protected in the Texas v. Johnson decision?



Students analyze a quote on free speech.


Students discuss the right to free speech.


Students summarize the Texas v. Johnson Supreme Court case.


Students debate a constitutional amendment to ban flag burning.


Students reflect by responding to the question, “How is free speech protected in the Texas v. Johnson decision?”


  • Lesson Slides (attached)

  • Sticky Notes (one per student)

  • Case Summary (attached; one per student)

  • Graphic Organizer (attached; one per student)

  • Court Case Review (attached; one per student)

  • Constitutional Amendment Debate (attached; one per group of four students)

  • Sticky notes (one per student)

  • Pen/pencil

  • Notebook paper


10 Minute(s)

Use the attached Lesson Slides to guide the lesson. Begin with slide 3 and read the quote on the slide to students: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it” ~ Evelyn Beatrice Hall.

Ask students to Think, Pair, Share what the quote means. Provide time for students to first think about the quote; then, pair students up and ask them to talk to one another about the meaning of the quote. Next, ask for volunteers to share what they talked about. 

Move to slide 4, which has the essential question, and slide 5, which has the lesson objectives. Review both of these with students. Ask students to think about the essential question as they complete the lesson.


15 Minute(s)

Display slide 6 and introduce the Commit and Toss strategy to students. Provide each student with a sticky note. Have students respond to the question on the slide, “Is it important to have freedom of speech? Why or why not?” on their sticky notes. Then, have students crumple up their sticky notes and toss them into the air. Ask students to pick up a sticky note and read it. Ask several students to read what is written on the sticky note they picked up. Ask students whether they agree or disagree with the note they picked up or whether they want to add something to what is written. Have a brief class discussion about the student's thoughts and responses.


25 Minute(s)

Move to slide 7. Pass out the attached Case Summary and Graphic Organizer handouts to each student. Have students read the summary of the court case Texas v. Johnson and use that information to complete the graphic organizer handout. Encourage students to consider the First Amendment while they are reading. If needed, show students a short video that further explains the case of Texas v. Johnson, Can You Burn an American Flag?

After students have completed the graphic organizer, have a class discussion about the decision in Texas v. Johnson. Display slide 8, which has questions that can prompt the discussion.


20 Minute(s)

Place students into groups of four and provide each group with one copy of the attached Constitutional Amendment Debate handout. Introduce students to the Debate Team Carousel strategy. Move to slide 9 and read the question on the slide: Should there be a constitutional amendment to ban burning the United States flag?

Show the short video on the slide, which gives two perspectives to the question.

After the video, move to slide 10 and follow the steps to complete the handout. 

Ask one student in each group to begin by writing their response to the question in box one. When the first student finishes, ask them to pass their paper to the student on their right. The next student reads what is written in box one and writes a statement of support for that response in box two. Next, ask students to pass their papers to the right again and have the third student add a counter-argument response in the third box. Finally, have students move the handout to the right once more. The fourth student reads the responses in boxes one through three and then writes a statement that summarizes the responses in the first three boxes.

Once the students have written their responses, ask the class to pass the handout back to the original student and provide a few minutes for everyone to read all the responses. Ask for a few volunteers to share their opinions about a constitutional amendment to ban burning the flag. 


10 Minute(s)

Move to slide 11 and have students take out a piece of notebook paper. Provide time for students to individually respond to the essential question: “How is free speech protected in the Texas v. Johnson decision?” Collect student responses to assess student understanding of the lesson.