Learning parliamentary procedure doesn’t have to be boring

Learn an interactive way to share basic parliamentary procedure with youth and adults.

Parliamentary procedure can make meetings more organized and it is used at most governmental meetings. Most organized boards couldn’t function without the process but let’s admit it...parliamentary procedure can be boring, especially when teaching the program to young people. However, with fun activities, you can teach youth to use parliamentary procedure in an experiential, hands-on way.

Teaching the basics of parliamentary procedure can be most successful if the basics are taught first and then the progressive skills are taught after basic ones are mastered. Learning to follow the basic decision making process may be the most important and useful information to share with young people, as well as adults new to the process.

One hands-on activity included in the University of Nebraska Lincoln 4-H Volunteer Information Series includes making trail mix while helping youth and adults to practice making motions, seconding them and voting. Just gather different types of snack mix ingredients: raisins, pretzels, cereals and candy that would make a good mix for a snack. Also include one or two items that wouldn’t likely be found in a trail mix: canned vegetables, etc. You’ll also need a bowl and mixing utensils and something to serve the trail mix. Other items needed are a gavel and a sample meeting agenda. You should set-up the room in a traditional meeting style, with a table in front for officers and chairs arranged in audience style.

To get started, break the group up into groups of 10. Open the activity, talking about components of a good meeting and how parliamentary procedure can help organize the meeting. Follow with an explanation of the motion making process. This would be a good time to have youth who know the process demonstrate a short business meeting with simple motions. Have youth preside over the meeting with a brief agenda.

After the demonstration, discuss the major parts of the meeting, including the motion making process. Introduce the trial mix activity by telling participants they will have an opportunity to act as president and preside over a meeting. Initially, provide a script to help the group to role play and use the correct language during the mock meetings. Explain to group members they are going to make trail mix but nothing hits the bowl without being properly moved, seconded and voted on. Demonstrate the language used once with the group, and then ask for a volunteer to serve as the president. The president will direct the group through the process. After each motion is presented and voted on, the chairperson can rotate. This activity also provides a great opportunity to demonstrate the use of the gavel – to obtain order or to signify a motion has been carried or failed.

Here’s the sample script that can be used for the role-play:

  • President: We are going to make trail mix today. Is there a motion for an ingredient to add to the bowl?
  • Member: I move that ____ be added to the trail mix.
  • President: Is there a second?
  • Member: I second the motion.
  • President: It has been moved and seconded that we add ____ to the trail mix. Is there any discussion?
  • Member(s): Share their thoughts on the motion.
  • President: All those in favor of adding ___ to the trail mix, signify by saying aye…
  • Member (s): Aye.
  • President: All those opposed, signify with the same sign.
  • Member (s): Aye.
  • After a vote, president makes determination if the vote passed or failed and states, “Motion carried” or “Motion failed.” President can state the result of the motion and signify with the gavel.

If the group needs further help in using the terminology, “I move” and “I second,” write the words I move and I second on opposite sides of a half-sheet of cardstock for each participant. They can lift their card as they make or second the motion. After the activity, groups can then use the trail mix activity as the snack for the meeting!

This and other hands-on activities are used by the Michigan State University Extension 4-H Youth Development leadership and civic engagement work team as an effective way to teach beginning parliamentary procedure at the officer training programs conducted for youth and adult audiences. Interested in learning more? Contact 4-hleadership@anr.msu.edu.

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