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Scots Language Centre Centre for the Scots Leid

Burns Nicht Learning Activities

Robert Burns, arguably our most famous writer, is traditionally celebrated on Burns Night on 25th January - but that doesn't mean that the teaching of Burns poetry has to be confined to January.  Here are some teaching ideas, with links, to keep your learners busy:


For all learners:


Watch: Your choice of our Scots dialects videos, available here.

Activity: Think about which of these words are new to you, and which are familiar. Script and/or record your own short video explaining what your dialect of Scots is like, and include some words with their definitions. 


Watch: this short animation telling the story of Burns’ life.

This animation, available to view on YouTube, is useful in giving your learners a brief overview of the life of Robert Burns.

Activity: Using Scots, learners can tell their life stories – or Rabbie’s, or their friend’s. Education Scotland’s 100 key Scots words resource will be useful. Learners in the Senior Phase may wish to use the online Scots dictionary.


Recite: one of Burns’ poems from the Scottish Poetry library website.

Activity: Learn a poem or verse each, and have a recital competition.


Explore: The Robert Burns Birthplace Museum virtual classroom. Click on the links to find a variety of teaching resources for learners at Early Years settings, as well as those working at CfE levels 1, 2 and 3.


For learners working within Early level


For an introduction to Scots…

Play: the ‘Make a Face’ and ‘Wee Hoose’ games.

Listen: to stories for free online at the Scots in schools website.


For learners working within First level


Watch: this video of a recital of 'To a Mouse'.

Complete: the ‘To a Mouse’ word search, downloadable below.

Online and interactive Scots word searches are available here.


Read: the poem, ‘Address to a Haggis’, or listen to it being performed here.

Write: a poem, in Scots, dedicated to your favourite food.


For learners working within Second level of CfE:


Watch: the video of this dramatic recital of Tam O’Shanter, or watch this short animation

Activity 1: Create a storyboard depicting the events within the poem, OR

Activity 2: Put the events in the correct order (using the ‘Order of events’ resource, downloadable below).

(Please note that the poem 'Tam O'Shanter' makes reference to violence, and so it is advisable to ensure that you use your judgement when sharing this text)


For learners working within Third and Fourth level of CfE:


Write: a monologue inspired by a Burns poem, or a dialogue between two characters from Burns poetry using the resources available at


Listen: to Paulo Nutini singing ‘A Man's a Man for A' That’.

Activity 1:

Answer the following questions:

1. Why are Burns’ songs so popular?

2. Which song is sung at Hogmanay? What relevance do the words have today?


Activity 2:

Translate ‘A Man's a Man for A' That’ into another language, or translate a current (English) song into Scots. Use the Education Scotland 100 key Scots words resource to help you.


Research: and find out what happens at a Burns’ supper.

Activity:      Write about ‘The Selkirk Grace’ – what is it, who wrote it and what does it make us think about?


For learners in the Senior Phase:


Analyse: one of Burns’ poems from the Higher English set text list, with help from BBC Bitesize.

Activity: List the common themes present in Burns’ ‘Holy Willie’s Prayer’ and MacCaig’s ‘Assisi’, and describe how each writer uses language to convey these themes.

Complete the interactive online reading activities on Tam O'Shanter and Holy Willie's Prayer