‘Scots language should be part of everyday teaching’

​​​​​​​Celebrating Scotland’s linguistic heritage must not be confined to Burns Night once a year, says Kirsty Crommie

Kirsty Crommie

Scotland's children should be immersed in Scots language all year round - not just ahead of Burns night, says Kirsty Crommie

As educators, we are used to teaching our pupils in English. Sometimes we may use French or Spanish, consolidating our learning of these languages into our daily routine. But how often do we teach in or teach through Scots?

Every January, as we celebrate the life of Robert Burns, children across Scotland busily and eagerly learn a Scots poem ready to recite to their peers – but for many learners that is it.

Could we, and should we, be doing more?

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In the 2011 census, over 1.5 million people self-identified as being able to speak Scots. With a language that is spoken that widely, shouldn’t we extend our teaching of Scots beyond a once-a-year celebration?

The Scots language is part of our culture and heritage and by teaching Scots – beyond dipping our toe in to celebrate Burns night – we are recognising and placing value on the diverse language and vocabulary that many pupils bring with them to school.

Learning the Scots language

On top of that, Scots is a wonderfully expressive and fascinating language and is one that is rich in delightful vocabulary. It is full of words that are an absolute joy to speak. Who wouldn’t relish using works like tapsalteerie, heelstergowdie and clishmaclaver?

There is also a growing array of resources and websites with ideas and suggestions as to how we can embed Scots into our teaching and learning, providing endless opportunities across the curriculum.

Go into any bookshop and you will find an ever-increasing range of Scots books for children and young adults, reflecting the growing status of the language and the interest in it. From Harry Potter to The Gruffalo to the books of Roald Dahl and David Walliams, there are loads of superb translations that can be used in class. As well as translated texts, there are more and more books being published in Scots or which feature Scots. Authors such as Alan McClure, Susi Briggs and Ross Sayers have released brilliant children's and young adult books that feature Scots, and with the Scots Language Publication Grant awarding funding to nine new titles, including children’s books, there is lots to look forward to.

Of course, Scots poetry in January is a great way to teach and enjoy Scots. I love listening to children proudly recite the poems that they have learned and they can provide a great stimulus for literacy work. One of my own favourite memories from school was reciting To a Louse at assembly in Primary 6. But it is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of how we can get the most from using Scots in the classroom. We need to give children opportunities throughout the year to explore and enjoy the language, not just a token nod in January.

By embracing Scots into our everyday teaching and learning a wee bit more we can encourage pupils to develop an understanding of Scotland’s linguistic and literary heritage. We can explore and share some brilliant vocabulary. We can engage learners by showing an appreciation for a language that many speak. And, most importantly, we can have loads of fun while we are doing it.

Kirsty Crommie is a primary teacher, children's book blogger and a student at the University of Stirling, where she is doing a part-time master's degree in professional education and leadership

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Kirsty Crommie

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