Ditty and Gaer Boxes


lisa yaal
copyright Katherine Laidlay

The Ditty Box and Gaer Box are resources for nurseries and earlier years developed in partnership by the Creative Links Team, Schools, artists and the voluntary organisation Shetland ForWirds.

In CPD and workshops sessions, teachers, writers and artists worked together, learning from each other and developed the packs, specifically with reference to Curriculum for Excellence.

Each pack contains 30 poems/stories in dialect, with accompanying topic webs and activities. Parent councils and the community members were invited to the launch event ensuring the profile was raised and enthusiasm for the project was generated. When the packs were introduced into schools, workshops with the writers and artists were held in all schools to help encourage their use.

The following people were involved in the project:

  • 1,203 nursery and primary pupils
  • 11 teachers
  • 10 artists
  • 9 writers



The project was developed in response to a need identified by the voluntary group Shetland ForWords. The previous dialect resource was over 10 years old and did not contain any contemporary materials or accompanying activities.

This need aligned with the guidance on minimum requirements for securing the place of Scots in mainstream Scottish Education. The Shetland perspective recognised that Constructive work with teachers to produce and develop classroom materials in Shetland dialect would be most effective, and that such materials should not be seen as ‘extras’ but should use Shetland dialect/Scots to help teachers fulfil the requirements of Curriculum for Excellence.

A graduate placement undertook work in Shetland, looking at how to develop and co-ordinate a new resource. The methodology for the project was designed to share learning and help professionals understand and appreciate the role of other disciplines. The intention was for this approach to encourage the development of further resources and create a feeling of ownership of the Ditty Box and Gaer Box.

The Ditty Box and Gaer Box were designed with the intention of:

  • – enabling pupils to learn more dialect in an engaging and relevant way
  • – providing dialect resources in line with Curriculum for Excellence
  • – encouraging teachers to create further resources
  • – help writers and teachers understand each others disciplines and the benefits of working in partnership
  • – create learning opportunities that ensure dialect is treated in a contemporary manner



Noted impacts are:

  • – significant increase in dialect being taught at early years stage
  • – pupils receiving dialect projects developed out of Ditty Box recourses
  • – teachers and writers have acquired new knowledge in developing dialect resources for early years
  • – dialect resources are now available through Glow


‘Commendably, the Creative Links Officer and cultural support team had established more than 70 projects during the last three years and had impacted on substantial numbers of learners throughout Shetland. The projects covered all arts forms and successfully fostered creativity and understanding of the Shetland culture.’

INEA, 8th July 2008


  • – In addition, teachers can and do, regularly and easily update the Ditty and Gaer Box resources
  • – Shetland ForWirds has posted these resources on their website and can deliver workshops
  • – The resources are being developed for more interactive use through Glow
  • – Activities are shared at good practice events
  • – The success of these resources played a vital parts in raising the funds required to appoint a Dialect Co-ordinator for 3 years in Shetland, whose role will involve creating dialect resources for older pupils


The Ditty Box was selected by Shetland Islands council to exhibit at the 2008 Scottish Learning Festival. The Ditty Box and Gaer Box are cited in reports lobbying to take dialect forward across Scotland.

Annie an da Taaties




  • – Creative Links Team
  • – Shetland ForWirds
  • – Teachers (nursery and primary)


Levels and Stages:

  • – Early
  • – Pre-school and P2



  • – Initially from schools Service and Shetland ForWirds
  • – Funding for 3 years from European Leader+ has been secured to continue the project


For more information contact:

Noelle Henderson, Creative Links Officer on 01595 744013 or email noelle.henderson@shetland.gov.uk



Shetland Islands Council – Creative Links


Shetland ForWirds

Home page: http://www.shetlanddialect.org.uk/

Learning site: http://www.shetlanddialect.org.uk/learning

Craigsaet CD: http://www.shetlanddialect.org.uk/Mair-aboot-Tirval

Curriculum for Excellence – Languages


Shetland Education HMIe INEA report


Scots Education Resources


Scpts’ Richtfu Hame – The Clessruim: http://www.scotseducation.co.uk/resources/Local+Education+Authorities+and+Scots.pdf

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