1. Introduce the lesson by engaging students in a discussion of issues of importance to them in the classroom. These might be such things as classroom rules, uses of resources such as art supplies or computer time, ways of interacting with one another that produce harmony—in short, any issue or issues that students believe to be important.
2. Announce that the class will participate in a Town Meeting to decide this issue (or these issues, if there are more than one). Each student will have a vote on the matter, and the class as a whole will elect “officials” to run the meeting. As background, tell students about the origins of Town Meetings in New England, or have them explore the websites below.
3. Before the meeting, students need to elect representatives, who will do the following:
- Students elect a Board of Selectmen and Selectwomen, which consists of five members, each of which will have a regular classroom “job” or assignment, e.g., collector of money, bulletin board, feeder of animals, etc.)
- Students elect a Clerk, who sends out the Warrant, or agenda, for the meeting, keeps a record of the proceedings of the Town Meeting, and is in possession of an official list all of voters (class members).
- Students elect a Moderator (who runs the Town Meeting).
4. After the election has occurred, and after students have discussed possible items to be decided at the Town Meeting, the Board of Selectmen and Selectwomen should meet to finalize the Warrant, or agenda, for the Meeting. The Warrant may have more than one Article (item), but must have at least one.
5. The Warrant also has the day and time of the Town Meeting on it, and is then distributed to the voters (all class members).
6. On the day of the Town Meeting, the Board of Selectmen and Selectwomen sit at the front of the room, along with the Town Clerk, who keeps a record of the proceedings, and the Moderator, who calls the Town Meeting to order, reads the item or items on the Warrant, and keeps order as the discussion proceeds.
After each item on the Warrant is read and discussed, a vote is taken on the item. A simple majority is usually sufficient for passage, but if it is a very important issue, a “super-majority” (e.g., 2/3 or ¾ of the voters) might be more appropriate. Super-majority rules should be decided ahead of the Town Meeting, and will depend almost entirely on the seriousness of the issue in question.
Definition of a Town Meeting
Citizens' Guide to Town Meetings
Sturbridge Town Meeting Lesson Plan (background for the teacher)
This lesson was developed by Averil McClelland, Kent State University.