Students will practice making, debating, and voting on motions following parliamentary procedure, or “parli pro.”
- Assorted bags of items that might go in trail mix: raisins, nuts, M&Ms, etc.
- A few odd items, either that students might not like (e.g., mustard-flavored pretzels), that aren’t likely to be found in trail mix (e.g., a can of corn), or that aren’t edible (e.g., box of paper clips)
- Handout with order of precedence for motions (see Parli Pro Resources)
- Snack-sized plastic baggies
Teach the basics of using parliamentary procedure to students before attempting this activity. Check the Parli Pro Resources sidebar for some good sources of information online, or refer to NASSP’s Parliamentary Procedure Without Stress, available in the National Student Council, NHS, or NJHS store.
Assemble the potential trail mix materials at the front of the room. Let students know that their task for the day is to create trail mix for everyone to eat using the materials gathered. Go through the items one at a time to let everyone know what is available. Their job is to determine what to include and to decide how much of each item is needed. Students will use parliamentary procedure to make these decisions. Start by opening the floor for a motion.
Preside over a meeting in which students make motions, second them, debate the motions, and vote on them. In the process, they will also amend motions, table some, call the question, and practice other procedures. Someone inevitably moves to include an item that people don’t want, and that motion will be voted down or die for lack of a second. Practice using both voice votes and a show of hands; explain how to call for a division of the house if a voice vote is unclear.
With the goal of creating a trail mix they can all eat, this activity engages lively discussion and provides opportunities to practice many aspects of parli pro. Once the trail mix is completed, have your officers divide it into equal portions in the snack baggies and distribute it to the students.
While students are eating their trail mix, engage them in a discussion that evaluates their use of parli pro with such questions as:
- How did parli pro make the meeting run efficiently?
- How does parli pro help ensure the voice of the minority is heard?
- What are some drawbacks to using parli pro?
- For what types of situations is this meeting management tool best used?
Lyn Fiscus teaches leadership and advises student government at South Lakes High School in Reston, VA, and would like to thank Marcia Edmundson of Prince George High School in Virginia for the idea for this lesson.
Parli Pro Resources
- Parliamentary charts and handouts—concise handouts and charts detailing how to handle different types of motions; useful for teaching parli pro. www.jimslaughter.com/handouts.cfm
- Parliamentary Procedure Basics—a useful video from 4-H in which students demonstrate various elements of parliamentary procedure. http://tinyurl.com/parliyoutube
- Parliamentary Basics from the National Association of Parliamentarians. www.parliamentarians.org/about/parliamentary-basics
- Parliamentary Procedure at a Glance—a concise listing of terms, motions, and procedures. http://tinyurl.com/parliglance