January can be a tough time in the school library. Although winter break is over, students and staff might not be entirely ready or willing to jump back into the day-to-day school routine. The midway point is behind us, and it’s a long haul until Spring Break. To break up the January doldrums, we started celebrating and teaching the UK-based Burns Supper and Burns Night.
Traditionally, a Burns Supper, honoring the life and work of the Scottish poet Robert Burns, takes place on Burns’s birthday, January 25, known in the UK as Burns Night. The Burns Supper can be informal, but there is a very specific and established order of events including menus, toasts, poetry readings, and an address to haggis.
This celebration fits right into our school library program. ELA classes are getting ready to start their poetry units, and as a well-known published writer, Robert Burns is definitely in our school library’s circle of interest. In order to make our celebration official, we created a three-day unit culminating in a Burns Supper/Lunch in the library.
Day One: We start the unit with an introductory lesson discussing cultural sensitivity regarding eating habits along with two short videos on Haggis and Burns Night. Each student is tasked with completing a Google Slide for the classroom Google Slides show. With assigned topics like cock-a-leekie soup and tatties and neeps, students have to do some light research using our school databases to complete their slides.
Day 2: Students step to the front of the class to practice public speaking. Presenting their individual slides, students teach each other about Robert Burns, Scotland, and Burns Night. We follow the presentation with a short Burns Night Quiz and remind students everyone will be assigned a part in the classroom Burns Supper/Lunch taking place during our next class meeting.
Day 3: This class is about performing the Burns Supper traditions while discussing and interpreting the different readings. For the readings and decoration we use paper crafts from Happy Thought UK. For the supper-lunch we order vegetarian haggis and haggis flavored potato chips from Scottish Gourmet USA, and bring in a Tipsy Laird and cheese plate. We also rearrange our tables and chairs to create a makeshift long dining table. Each student place setting gets Burns Supper menu, a booklet of the reading parts, and a little tartan hat to wear.
Typically, we invite our administration to join us, but we’re thinking about inviting ELA teachers this year. Any other school libraries celebrating Burns Night? Ultimately, Burns Night tends to be our last big hurrah before the onslaught of testing, proctoring, and having to perpetually close up the library. Is anyone else out there celebrating any other smaller, unique holidays in the school library?
Author: Mica Johnson
I’m a school librarian at Farragut Middle. I like the lib to be loud, messy, and full of student activity. I love tech stuff as much as I love books, and I’m part of an awesome rotating maker space.