Holding Community Meetings
In many middle schools, students begin to have opportunities to participate in organizations and groups such as Student Council which are led by a student run governing body. Students may also have individual class governments with an elected class president, vice president, etc. Understanding the role of government and how a democratic form of government works is paramount to the success of their organizations and groups. Norman Rockwell’s illustration, Freedom of Speech, offers students an opening for discussing and forming these student led government bodies.
In these lessons, students will learn about how governing bodies are run based on democratic principles, giving all members of the organization or group chance to be heard. Students will learn and utilize Parliamentary Procedure. In addition, they will plan and carry out a project that will benefit their school or town community.
Enduring Understandings/ Essential Questions
- Everyone has the right to share ideas and concerns in their community.
- Members of a community should use good manners when attending a meeting.
- Speakers should present their ideas or concerns in a positive way. In addition, the speaker should provide information/evidence that supports the idea/concern.
- The success of a community is dependent on contributions from all its members
- What does Freedom of Speech mean?
- Why should speakers present their ideas/concerns in a positive way?
- What procedures should be followed at community meetings? Why?
- Why should speakers give information that supports their ideas/concerns?
- In what ways can the entire membership contribute to the success of the organization or group?
- Four Freedoms
- This is an on-going activity.
- Social Studies; Language Arts:Speaking and Listening
- Parliamentary Procedure (Robert’s Rules of Order); Point of view Respect; Responsibility; Citizenship; Agenda; Delegate; Motion; Discussion; Majority; Roll Call; Adjourn; Second the motion
- Students will apply civic virtues (such as honesty, mutual respect, cooperation, and attentiveness to multiple perspective) and democratic principles (including equality, freedom, liberty, respect for individual rights, and deliberation in formal and informal settings).
- Students will speak on a variety of grade level topics.
- Students will express information, thoughts and feelings clearly.
- Students will ask questions related to speaker’s presentation to get additional information or to clarify misunderstandings.
- Students will work cooperatively to solve community issues.
- Students will engage in inquiry, deliberation and planning to take action to provide a service to others in the school, town or an outreach community.
In January 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt gave an important State of the Union address to Congress. In his speech, he named the Four Freedoms, which he felt were essential rights for all citizens of the world. Freedom of Speech was one of these rights. Towns in New England have been recognized for town meetings, which allow members of the community to speak about their ideas and concerns. While attending a town meeting in Arlington, Vermont, Rockwell realized that this was an example of Freedom of Speech.
Norman Rockwell’s Freedom of Speech is arguably among the most famous works of American art. Popular from its first publication in The Saturday Evening Post, it expresses a timeless message that continues to be relevant today, from issues relating to freedom of thought, the press, assembly, and speech, to the power of advocacy and community. It is the only one in Rockwell’s series that is based upon a specific event. On November 9, 1940, the Memorial School in Rockwell’s town of Arlington, Vermont, burned down. A replacement school was offered for approval and townspeople voted to borrow funds at a Town Meeting that Rockwell attended. Commissioned to produce illustrations based on Freedoms, the artist struggled to come up with ideas. “Then one night as I was tossing in bed, mulling over the proclamation and the war, rejecting one idea after another and getting more and more discouraged …I suddenly remembered how Jim Edgerton had stood up in a town meeting and said something that everyone else disagreed with.” Rockwell wrote. “But they had let him have his say. No one had shouted him down. My gosh, I thought, that’s it ….Freedom of Speech …I’ll express the ideas in simple, everyday scenes.”
A farmer and a neighbor of Rockwell’s, Edgerton was hit hard by the collapse of milk prices during the Depression and an outbreak of disease among his herd, and his eighty acre dairy farm was in danger of going out of business. The impact of additional taxes would have been a challenge for Edgerton, who, in the words of his son Buddy, “held everyone’s full attention as he passionately outlined his minority position. Finishing with thanks and a nod of his head, he sat down; and then the townspeople voted to build the new school.” Rockwell is a witness to the scene here; he appears on the left glancing up at the speaker, who is modeled not by Edgerton but by the more Lincolnesque Carl Hess, also a neighbor.
- T-Chart from close reading of illustration
- Handouts of the meeting agenda for each member
- Copies of appropriate handout for Parliamentary Procedure for each student
Additional Teacher Resources:
- Simplified Handbook of Parliamentary Procedure
- 4 H Quick and Easy Guide to Parliamentary Procedure
The 4 H guide provides some ideas to teach and practice Parliamentary Procedure with students.
- Basics of Parliamentary Procedure
Prior to holding meetings with students:
- If possible, attend a local town or watch a recorded meeting with students. Discuss the format of the meeting as well as the roles of the various community members in attendance. Discuss ways that a “town meeting” could work in the school community.
- Establish a routine and schedule for class or organization meetings.
- Hold a class discussion to determine the goals of the group. Determine if the group will be run in an informal style or formal style.
Informal Style Characteristics: Flexible meeting agenda; basic parliamentary procedures; chairperson or elected officers; controlled discussion. Settings: 4-H meetings, school/church/civic organizations.
Formal Style Characteristics: Precise meeting agenda; standard parliamentary procedures following Robert’s Rules of Order; elected officers. Settings: Large gatherings; 4-H Federation meeting, FFA formal meetings.
If meetings will be held in an Informal Style: The 4 H handbook contains a one page reference for Parliamentary Procedure that would fit the needs of the group.
If meetings will be held in a Formal Style: Pass out handout: Basics of Parliamentary Procedure. This is a five page handout which includes terms used and their definitions.
- Close read the appropriate handout, giving students opportunity to ask questions and discuss these procedures.
- Hold an election to choose officers for the group. You may wish to invite an elected official in the town: a school board member or a town selectman to talk about running for office.
- Schedule meetings. The group may suggest, research and plan fun activities, fundraisers for class trips or special activities, etc. One project should contribute in some way to the betterment of the school or town. Planning a school or town clean-up day is one such idea.
- Are students demonstrating civic virtues at the meetings?
- Are they following Parliamentary Procedure?
- Are the meetings productive?
- Are all members participating?
- Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 6 topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.
- Interpret information presented in diverse media and formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) and explain how it contributes to a topic, text, or issue under study.
- Delineate a speaker's argument and specific claims, distinguishing claims that are supported by reasons and evidence from claims that are not.
- Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate. (See grade 6 Language standards 1 and 3 [link to="CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.6">here[/link] for specific expectations.)
- Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 7 topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.
- Analyze the main ideas and supporting details presented in diverse media and formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) and explain how the ideas clarify a topic, text, or issue under study.
- Delineate a speaker's argument and specific claims, evaluating the soundness of the reasoning and the relevance and sufficiency of the evidence.
- Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate. (See grade 7 Language standards 1 and 3 [link to="CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.7"]here[/link] for specific expectations.)
- Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 8 topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.
- Analyze the purpose of information presented in diverse media and formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) and evaluate the motives (e.g., social, commercial, political) behind its presentation.
- Delineate a speaker's argument and specific claims, evaluating the soundness of the reasoning and relevance and sufficiency of the evidence and identifying when irrelevant evidence is introduced.
- Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate. (See grade 8 Language standards 1 and 3 [link to="CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.8"]here[/link] for specific expectations.)
- Explain how a question represents key ideas in the field.
- Explain points of agreement experts have about interpretations and applications of disciplinary concepts and ideas associated with a compelling question.
- Explain points of agreement experts have about interpretations and applications and disciplinary concepts and ideas associated with a supporting question.
- Explain how the relationship between supporting questions and compelling questions is mutually reinforcing.
- Determine the kinds of sources that will be helpful in answering compelling and supporting questions, taking into consideration the different opinions people have about how to answer the question.
- Distinguish the powers and responsibilities of citizens, political parties, interest groups and the media in a variety of governmental and nongovernmental contexts.
- Explain the relevance of personal interests and perspectives, civic virtues, and democratic principles when people address issues and problems in government and civil society.
- Differentiate among procedures for making decisions in the classroom, school, civil society, and local, state, and national government in terms of how civic purposes are intended.
- Explain specific roles played by citizens (such as voters, jurors, taxpayers, members of the armed forces, petitioners, protesters, and office-holders.
- Describe the roles of political, civil, and economic organizations in shaping people's lives.
- Apply civic virtues and democratic principles in school and community settings.
- Compare deliberative processes used in a wide variety of groups in various settings.
- Gather relevant information from multiple sources while using the origin, authority, structure, context, and corroborative value of the sources to guide the selection.
- Evaluate the credibility of a source by determining its relevance and intended use.
- Identify evidence that draws information from multiple sources to support claims, noting evidentiary limitations.
- Develop claims and counterclaims while pointing out the strengths and limitations of both.
- Construct an argument using claims and evidence from multiple sources, while acknowledging the strengths and limitations of the argument.
- Construct explanations using reasoning, correct sequence, examples, and details with relevant information and data, while acknowledging the strengths, and weaknesses of explanations.
- Present a summary of arguments and explanations on topics of interest to others to reach audiences and venues outside the classroom using print and oral technologies (e.g., posters, essays, letters, debates, speeches, reports, and maps) and digital technologies (e.g., Internet, social media, and digital documentary).
- Critique arguments for credibility.
- Critique the structure of explanations.
- Draw on disciplinary concepts to explain the challenges people have faced and opportunities they have created, in addressing local regional, and global problems at various times and places.
- Draw on multiple disciplinary lenses to analyze how a specific problem can manifest itself at local, regional, and global levels over time, identifying its characteristics and causes, and the challenges and opportunities faced by those trying to address the problem.
- Assess their individual and collective capacities to take action to address local, regional, and global problems, taking into account a range of possible levers of power, strategies, and potential outcomes.