In the context of citizenship education, many UK primary schools have recently set up school councils. Previous research has overlooked the importance of exploring communicative practices specific to school councils and the implications for children's participation. This paper draws on an action‐orientated research project with teachers in three Norfolk primary schools, which began with ethnographic observation of school and class council meetings. By developing alternative visual strategies for facilitating communication in meetings (based on a methodology known as PRA), teachers were able to encourage involvement by more children and enable them to have a greater voice in decision‐making. We argue that the common focus on adult procedures in school councils puts the emphasis on teaching children about their future role as citizens and can limit children's ownership of decision‐making processes. The alternative is to create contexts in which children have a sense of the democratic purposes of their school council in the here and now, by providing children with means (such as the visual strategies) that are consistent with those purposes and prioritizing action as an end.