Teacher interview: Diane Anderson on the Impact of Scots in the Classroom

Image of an apple on top of some books

Secondary teacher Diane Anderson is a huge advocate of Scots in the classroom, having previously worked for Education Scotland to enhance learning and teaching in Scots. In this interview, Diane talks about the potential of Scots to impact on attainment and reading for pleasure, as well as giving her top tips for teachers new to Scots.

 

At Scottish Book Trust we've heard a lot of anecdotal evidence about the impact of Scots on attainment. In particular, allowing pupils the freedom to write in Scots seems to have had a beneficial effect. What examples have you seen of Scots having an impact on attainment?

Scots has a huge impact on engagement first and foremost: pupils who have been uninterested know they can achieve, sometimes better than their classmates, and that improves their attainment. I have seen this with a fourth-year boy who had never achieved much in English and with an able second-year who used to apply himself but was going through a rebellious stage and was reluctant to do anything. Scots helped both these boys, for example. When they apply themselves, they improve and attainment rises.

What tips would you have for secondary teachers who are just starting out in Scots? For example, would you recommend listening activities before they begin reading and writing?

People are delighted to see text in their mother tongue and know that it is valued by others

If you are unsure, start with something you know. A translation of a well-known text might be the answer. Ask people for help - a Scots speaker might help you to read if you are unsure about doing it yourself. Ask the pupils about the Scots they know/ use. If you do have Scots yourself, use what you have. There are plenty of support materials - refer to Education Scotland,  The Scots Language Centre, Scots Hoose, Scuilwab and The Scottish Book Trust for ideas and resources to get you started.

What about pupils and teachers who don't really speak Scots? Where does the value lie for them in Scots classroom activities?

Scots is a sister language of English. This means that non-speakers can cope with a little support, provided that everybody wants them to. Learners with ESOL want to learn, for the cultural capital it provides - and when they are already learning English, Scots will be all the easier. Over-learning is beneficial for all - sometimes having to translate from Scots into English, or being given the same information in two languages, can help understanding. And remember, Scots speakers have learned in this way for years.

Have you seen Scots having an impact, or can you envisage it having an impact, on pupils' desire to read for pleasure?

I have absolutely seen people delighted to see text in their mother tongue and know that it is valued by others. Mostly, people find reading Scots a challenge until they are used to it. The downside is there are too few texts in Scots to enable people to become skilled at reading it. More in Scots - all genres, translations and original - would definitely help. But it is chicken and egg: without confident readers, there is less demand and without more texts, there is a lack of confident readers demanding texts.

 


 

At Scottish Book Trust we've heard a lot of anecdotal evidence about the impact of Scots on attainment. In particular, allowing pupils the freedom to write in Scots seems to have had a beneficial effect. What examples have you seen of Scots having an impact on attainment?

Scots his a muckle impact on engagement maist Ava: bairns fa hinnae been interestit Ken they can dae it, files better nor the ithers in their cless, an that brings them oan. A hiv seen this wi a fourth year laddie faa hid niver daen muckle in English an wi a bricht second year laddie fa eesed tae stick in bit hid hit a rebellious stage an wis ower thrawn tae dae onythin. Scots helpit baith thon loons, fir example. Fan they stick in, they come oan an attainment gangs up.

What tips would you have for secondary teachers who are just starting out in Scots? For example, would you recommend listening activities before they begin reading and writing?

A hiv fairly seen fowk delichtit tae see text in their mither tongue an ken thit it is o value tae ither fowk

Gin ye're nae affa shair, stert wi somethin ye ken. An owersettin o a weel-kennt text micht dae it. Speir at fowk fir help - a Scots spikker micht help ye tae read gin yer nae affa shair aboot it yersel. Speir at the bairns aboot fit Scots they ken/ yaise. If ye div hae Scots yersel, yaise fit ye hiv. There's plinty o support materials - see at Education Scotland, The Scots Language Centre, Scots Hoose, Scuilwab an The Scottish Book Trust fir ideas an resources tae get ye gaun.

What about pupils and teachers who don't really speak Scots? Where does the value lie for them in Scots classroom activities?

Scots is sib tae English. Iss means thit non-spikkers can manage wi a bittie support, as lang as awbodie wints them tae. ESOL bairns wint tae lairn, fir the cultural capital it gies them - an faan they are awriddy lairnin English, Scots will be aw the easier. Ower-lairnin is guid fir awbodie - files haein tae translate fae Scots intae English, or gettin the same kennin in twa leids, can help unnerstaundin. An mind, Scots spikkers hiv lairned lik this fir years.

Have you seen Scots having an impact, or can you envisage it having an impact, on pupils' desire to read for pleasure?

A hiv fairly seen fowk delichtit tae see text in their mither tongue an ken thit it is o value tae ither fowk. Maistly, fowk find readin Scots a chauve n they are eese tae it. The doon side is there's nae eneuch text inno Scots fir fowk tae get guid at readin it. Mair in Scots - aw genres, translatit an original - wid fairly help. Bit it is chucken an egg: athoot confident readers, there's less demand an athoot mair texts, we hivnae confident readers cryin oot fir texts.

For more blog posts by Diane and other Scots experts, check out our Scots in Schools blog tag.

Diane Anderson

Diane is a secondary teacher at Morgan Academy in Dundee. She is a dedicated advocate of Scots in schools, and previously worked as a Scots Language Co-ordinator for Education Scotland.