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Celebrating Burns night in your school

Burns night, held every January, is a great way to explore poetry and Scots as well as Scottish history and culture with the children you work with. This article will take you through some ideas, activities, and resources you can use in your school.

Genre: History, Poetry, Scotland, Scots
Audience: Professionals

Last updated: 22 May 2024

Explore Scottish poetry past and present

Scotland has a rich culture of poetry, including and beyond Robert Burns. Alongside reading Burns explore our book lists on rhyming stories or poetry for older readers. You could also learn about the role of the Makar in Scotland(this link will open in a new window) – exploring the importance and history of Scotland’s national poet. On our website you can also watch Authors Live broadcasts with poets including Dean Atta, Rachel Plummer and Gray Crosbie or Deanna Rodgers and Ellen Renton.

Different ways of sharing poems

Burns nights have a long tradition of memorising and reciting poetry, but there’s loads of other ways you can share poetry in your school. Our performance poetry learning resource suggests activities and ideas for performing work or reading poems aloud including creating comic strips and filming your own cinepoem! For younger children, we also have an Introducing and exploring poetry resource which is great for getting your class started with the basics of poetry, including learning about rhyme and rhythm, and listening to poetry read aloud.

Young Scots Writer o the Year Award

The Young Scots Writer o the Year Award celebrates Scots writing by 11–18 year olds including prose, poetry, spoken word, comics and more. The deadline to submit is 19 June 2024. For more advice on writing in Scots, see our article on How to get started writing poetry in Scots by Scots poet William Letford. We also have learning resources with activities designed to help you with both writing poetry and writing prose in Scots. The Young Writers section of our website also collects writing ideas and opportunities for young writers such as competitions and places to submit their work.

Scots all year round

Scots is a rich language that you can learn and celebrate all year round – not just on Burns Night – and can be part of learning across the curriculum. Our Lady’s Primary School in Dundee, for example, has explored Scots stories by putting children in charge of adapting Scots picture books into plays including writing scripts, creating costumes and props and planning how to stage their productions. Airdrie Academy celebrated World Book Day with a Lunch with (this link will open in a new window)The Gruffalo where they read the story in Scots and French.

Scots in Schools(this link will open in a new window) is a free website you can use to access songs, animations, poems, comics and more texts you can use in your classroom. On our website, you can also find learning resources using Scots in the classroom and exploring Roald Dahl in Scots.

You can also see our book lists of our favourite Scots books for 6–8 year olds, 9–14 year olds and 15–18 year olds. For younger children, our Bookbug app and Bookbug Song and Rhyme Library has songs and rhymes in Scots, including The Jeely Piece Song, Ally Bally and more. You could also explore the Live Literature Author Directory for authors and writers who speak or write Scots, and apply for them to visit your school.

Travel with Burns around the world

From India to Svalbard, Burns Night is celebrated across the world. The University of Glasgow's interactive map(this link will open in a new window) allows you to view some of the celebrations across the world. You could explore fusion twists on classic Burns Night dishes like spiced cranachan(this link will open in a new window) or haggis dim sum(this link will open in a new window).

If you fancy a smaller scale trip, on our website you can play Rabbie Burns Saves the World, an interactive 8-bit game created by poet Calum Rodger where you must travel Scotland, via writers including Nan Shepherd and Muriel Spark, to save the world.

However you celebrate, we hope you have fun. Share your celebrations with us via @scottishbktrust on Twitter(this link will open in a new window) or @scottishbooktrust on Instagram(this link will open in a new window)