Bring the poetry of Robert Burns to life in your classroom
The understanding of different dialects in the spoken and written word can help children to develop a social and cultural awareness. Interrogation of different texts can help inform children’s understanding of the written word and the meaning behind the text.
On 25th January each year, Burns’ Night is celebrated around the world with one of the key traditions of the night being the recital of poetry. We’ve compiled some great ideas and resources to help bring a flavour of the great Scot’s poetry into your classroom.
Activity for Lower Primary
Introduce your pupils to a brief history of Robert Burns and his work. The BBC Schools website has a brief biography of the man himself with additional links to all his works. Listen to the poem “Tae a Mouse” as read by Brian Cox and ask pupils to pay particular attention to the rhythm of the words and the language used.
For younger children, a list of key words can be used to help interpret the language of the poem, which can either be collected and displayed on a topic board in the classroom or used to help explain the themes of the poem. Ask pupils to draw their own version of a mouse based on Burns’ representation of the world he imagines the mouse to live in. Is he timid or is he happy?
For older children, try translating the poem into modern English; does it still have the same impact? The Robert Burns Society has a modern English translation of the poem to help explore the themes. Encourage pupils to create their own acrostic poem using the word MOUSE and reverse the point of view to be ‘From a Mouse’.
Additional activity ideas
Explore the traditions of Burns’ Night
Make your own tartan
Produce a fact file on Robert Burns
Accessing Scottish poetry in Higher Primary and Lower Secondary
For older pupils, compare “Tae a Mouse” with the poem “From a Mouse” by contemporary Scottish poet, Liz Lochhead. The BBC’s Culture website features an interview from Liz Lochhead on why she thinks Burns’ poetry has endured.
There are a wealth of activity ideas and teacher resources online to help explore the life of Robert Burns, with some great resources for cross-curricular activities. Here are just a few of our favourites:
The Robert Burns Birthplace Museum features an in-depth biography of Robert Burns as well as ideas on how to bring Burns to your classroom.
The Hopscotch Theatre has produced a fantastic cross-curricular resource pack for teachers based on the life and times of Robert Burns.
The Robert Burns World Federation’s website features word searches, quizzes and much more, suitable for all ages.
A full archive of Robert Burns’ poetry and songs can be found at:
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