A great Scots poet

Robert Burns is Scotland’s national poet. His poems speak about love and death and span the natural and supernatural worlds. He expressed sympathy and compassion for his fellow humans as readily as he made fun of them. Burns was a world-class poet who possessed great literacy skills in English and especially in Scots.

Arguably, the basis of Robert Burns’ literary success was his choice of language. He chose to write in Scots and his poems are some of the best examples of Scots ever put down on paper. He was a consummate master of the Scots language and his work provides us with a wealth of poetry to study and to emulate.

But when we tell our children about this amazing poet, we don’t actually make much of the fact that he wrote in Scots. For many, Burns’ language is seen as something awkward and difficult to deal with rather than a treasure chest of Scots vocabulary.

Oor Rabbie is no just for January

Every January there is a huge celebration of Burns' birthday in most of Scotland's schools. Children learn and recite his poetry. They copy his image on to posters, make paper kilts, decide whether they like haggis or not, perhaps visit his childhood home at Alloway and in some cases recreate an entire Burns' Cottage out of papier mache in the school gym.

Burns Suppers are held in his name with the school canteen, dinner ladies included, decked in tartan. Even primary children are encouraged to engage in the slanging match of the Toast to the Lassies and Reply to the Laddies.

A number of teachers have already begun to add value to the traditional Burns celebrations by embarking on more extensive programmes of study throughout the school year. In many schools Burns Night has been replaced by Scots Language Week or a Scots Book Week. Other schools are exploring Burns' language at different points in the calendar year. Burns certainly wrote about winter, but he wrote about other seasons as well.