Five simple steps to making a parliamentary motion

Explore how to easily use basic parliamentary procedure in 4-H and community organization meetings with youth.

Providing opportunities for youth to practice basic parliamentary procedure through 4-H club meetings or other community organizations allows them to build skills they will use in their future in a friendly environment that supports learning. One important principle in parliamentary procedure is the process of making and voting on motions.

This simple five-step guide provides basic language and tips that work for meeting settings with youth:

  1. Be recognized – It’s important that a member of an organization first have the floor before presenting a motion or new order of business. This is typically done simply by the raise of a hand and recognition by the president or chair.
  2. Motion is presented – The proper language youth should use is, “I move that we…” Many youth-driven clubs tolerate language such as “I make a motion that we…” or “I move to make a motion… .” An example of the correct language is simply, “I move that we do a roadside cleanup for our community service project.”
  3. Motion is seconded – The proper language is, “I second,” or “I second the motion.” “Support” is commonly used, but is improper language, as seconding a motion simply means the individual wants to move the item to discussion, seconding a motion does not necessarily indicate support.
  4. Motion is discussed – Only motions that have been properly moved and seconded should be discussed. A common mistake in many meetings with youth is that many ideas are discussed at length before an idea is presented in the form of a motion. This is an acceptable first step for youth that might want to understand the concept before putting it in the form of a motion- a process that often requires a little more thought.
  5. Vote is taken on motion – After an appropriate period of discussion, the president or chair should call for a vote for the motion on the floor. Voting can be conducted in several ways, a voice vote (“aye” or “nay”), by raising of hands, by roll call or by secret ballot. Most votes in youth-driven organizations can be determined by a simple voice vote, however, if the vote seems close, a raise of hands is appropriate for a more accurate count.

The University of Nebraska Extension developed an activity where youth make trail mix in order to practice the process of making a motion. Essentially, the facilitator supplies several possible trail mix ingredients, and explains that in order to get trail mix ingredients into the bowl, the ingredient suggestions must be in the form of proper motions. The facilitator asks for a volunteer from the group to serve as the chair, and rotates that responsibility with each motion/ingredient. This process provides youth with an opportunity to practice the words that are required to make, second and vote on motions, and provides a volunteer with an opportunity to practice being the president.

Members of Michigan State University Extension who focus on leadership and civic engagement are able to provide training on this and related topics; for more information about youth programming, email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). To contact a local MSU Extension educator, visit the MSU Extension website.

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