Lesson Plans and Teaching Resources

The Tinker case and ruling make for lively classroom discussions of the First Amendment and the role of youth in shaping American life.  Here are a few resources for teachers, but see the “Tinker in the News” page for more.


Mary Beth Tinker’s website tinkertourusa.org,   With  Page of primary sources

John Tinker’s website schema-root.org page on “Tinker v Des Moines”

Oyez:  Hear Supreme Court oral argument in “Tinker”  (Nov. 12, 1968)

Or, for an animated version of the oral arguments, try this….

iCivics’,   “Supreme Decision”   Fun, and has a ppt option.

Good for MS or HS (Teacher must register, but they make it easy)

State Historical Society of Iowa:  Review of “The Struggle For Student Rights: Tinker v Des Moines and the 1960s” ” by John Johnson  From 1998, a short review of probably the most thorough book on ‘Tinker’ by renowned Iowa author and professor, John Johnson

Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance    On Rights & Activism


Gilder Lehrman

Bill of Rights Institute, with short summary and questions

US Supreme Court site, with short summary

Street Law, on “Tinker” includes several levels from MS to HS

The Rendell Center For Civics & Civic Engagement

(Emphasis on Elementary Students)


Raise Your Voice This amazing film by Maribeth Romslo follows the student journalists at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School navigating their school mass shooting as both survivors and journalists. The documentary explores youth free speech history in America (through the story of Mary Beth Tinker of Tinker v. Des Moines) connecting the Parkland students to a broader story about young voices and their power through social movements. 2020,  45 minutes (the link is for the trailer)

April,2019:  The federal courts host a program for HS students at the DC Appeals Court, with Chief Judge Merrick Garland officiating

Animated video by ACLU to celebrate 50th anniversary Tinker v Des Moines

                 (4 mins., narrated by Mary Beth & John Tinker)  Feb. 2019

Student Free Speech and Tinker v Des Moines anniversary,  2/24/19, C-SPAN

C-SPAN Landmark Cases  Tinker v Des Moines, April 2018 (90 mins)

The 50th Anniversary of the Tinker v Des Moines Decision, 2/22/19, Iowa Public TV Livestream Event at the State Historical Society of Iowa

Mary Beth Tinker Tells Student Activists About Her Role in the History of Student Rights  NowThis 3/23/18

Writer and student speech expert, David Hudson, on ‘Tinker’ (2018, 2 mins)

Student opinions on ‘Tinker’ & student speech (1 minute)

Emma Gonzalez speech referencing ‘Tinker”  (Feb 17, 2018, 11 mins)

Emma Shipley (Iowa student) video on Tinker (2012, 9 mins)

Des Moines Channel 13, 12/16/15 re: 50th anniversary of suspension (2 mins)

MB Tinker interview by American Library Ass’n (2011, 5 mins)

MB Tinker interview at Rob’t Jackson Center (2014, 50 mins)

John Tinker on Free Speech, U of Illinois (2015, 2 mins)

AND, check the student videos on YouTube about Tinker v Des Moines

Podcasts,  etc.

For Middle School:

US Courts.gov:  Tinker v Des Moines summary (3 minutes)

Newseum podcast:  Interview w Mary Beth, with related links (6 minutes, 2015)

‘Tinker’ comic Book by elem students at Graham & Parks Elementary School

For High School:

10/31/21 Delaware Justice Team:  Ronald Collins, Susan Burke & Mary Beth

4/’21: ACLU podcast with Mary Beth, Brandi Levy & attorney Vic Walczak re:  B.L. v Mahanoy

NPR,  Nina Totenberg (January, 2018, 6 mins)

Amicus, with Dahlia Lithwick, Geoffrey Stone, Mary B Tinker Sept. 1, 2018 (1 hour)

“Make No Law”, Popehat   Jan. 13, 2018  (32 minutes)

US Courts:  Tinker v Des Moines summary (3 minutes)

Newseum podcast:  Interview w Mary Beth, with related links (6 minutes, 2015

‘Tinker’ Curricula:

Scholastic Source Texts (for MS)

Tinker HS Lesson Plan w CCSS, by Candace Bowen, Kent State, Feb. 2019

Tinker HS Lesson Plan w CCSS, by Candace Bowen, Kent State, Feb 2019

Candace Bowen directs both the Center for Scholastic Journalism at Kent State University and the statewide Ohio Scholastic Media Association. She also oversees Kent State’s online master’s degree program for Journalism Educators.

Screen Shot 2017-11-20 at 6.00.37 PM

To see Mary Beth’s original armband, and also a great display about students’ rights, visit the Newseum when you’re in Washington DC with your students.  They have classes and curriculum on “Tinker” available as well.

National Constitution Center on “Tinker”

C-SPAN Program on “Tinker” on 40th Anniversary of the ruling, Feb. ’09

with Greta Brawner, Maryam Ahranjani & Tom Hutton

Street Law Inc. & The Supreme Court Historical Society present Landmark Cases


The First Amendment Game: Tinker v. Des Moines by the Annenberg Institute for Civics.  Using the landmark case about students’ right to free speech, this game launches students on a journey to the U.S. Supreme Court. Along the way are mini-games and challenges that teach about the First Amendment, the Tinker case, legal concepts and how the federal courts work.

Kids! The New Frontier For a Democratic Society (Tedx 2014 by Mary B Tinker)

Education4Freedom.bannerEducation for Freedom: Lesson Plans for Teaching the First Amendment, created by the Freedom Forum’s First Amendment Center, a nonpartisan center dedicated to the understanding and appreciation of the values of the First Amendment. These lessons (beginning and advanced levels) address constitutional principles and contemporary issues involving the First Amendment and include a specific unit on the Supreme Court’s 1969 decision in Tinker v.DesMoines Indep. School Dist.

The Southern Poverty Law Center’s TEACHING TOLERANCE lesson puts “Tinker” in the context of civil rights and human rights

Also, check the First Amendment Center’s links on the First Amendment

and recent NEWSEUM blogs related to “Tinker”

OHIO STATE BAR FOUNDATION:  “Free Speech, Press, Religion, Press, Assembly, Petition” (Student speech p. 14-38) 8233651

icivicsFounded by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor in 2009, iCivics strives to reverse Americans’ declining civic knowledge and participation. Securing our democracy, O’Connor believes, requires teaching the next generation to understand and respect our system of governance. Their curriculum includes a lesson discussing the impact of the Tinker ruling on student dress codes.

ACSAmerican Constitution Society for Law and Policy has created materials that help volunteer law students teach high school and middle school students about free speech in schools and the impact of the Tinker case.

New York Times: 10 Cases Every Teen Should Know

Media Law Resource Center: Curriculum on Censorship

National School Boards Association:  Off-campus, Online Student Speech Cases Chart   (And how cases cite “Tinker” or “Fraser”)

Friday, August 19, 2011
School Law Resources

8/19/2011 – Four federal circuits have ruled on school districts disciplining students for off-campus, on-line student speech. This chart summarizes the facts, holding, and legal standards applied in all the circuit and district court cases involving off-campus, on-line student speech.


National Constitution Center, “Free To Be” lesson on First Amendment

Free to Be You

This lesson helps students understand how the First Amendment establishes key freedoms of expression for Americans.

Grade:12, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6

Journalism Education Association Constitution Day Curriculum:  http://jeasprc.org/constitution-day-2013-teaching-materials-and-lessons/

One response to “Lesson Plans and Teaching Resources

  1. I was around for Tinker and then around for Hazelwood (and one of the Supreme Court justices involved that decision had been editor of the student newspaper I have advised for 50 years and another was the father of two of our editors) and what I always think about is how these decisions very much aligned with the times. Tinker came at a time of much activism among young people, optimism about effecting change, and dynamic high school education. Hazelwood came in when a more solemn and even grim mood began to take over high school administration and education. I’m from St. Louis and knew the adviser involved, who truly was an innocent victim, and was so proud of the Post-Dispatch publishing the censored portions of the Hazelwood issue of the school paper. Also, being from St. Louis, I am aware of how unreliable the Supreme Court and all courts are in protecting freedom and the rights of expression. It was in St. Louis that a slave was denied his right to freedom in the long ago, a long ago which in some ways is still with us right now.

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