A healthy number of SATE members and friends attended the annual Association for Scottish Literary Studies conference, a veteran highlight of the CPD calendar. ASLS is a fantastic organisation that has for decades been highly influential in promoting Scottish writing, both in and outwith schools. You can join the ASLS here: ASLS .
An excellent day was had by all. Here are some thoughts and reflections.
It was a pleasure to be part of the annual ASLS School’s Conference on October 1st 2016. Writers of the past, present and future were celebrated. Engaging, passionate speakers offered fresh perspectives on classic and contemporary Scottish literature and provided insights into engaging young learners with such texts in the classroom.
It was an autumnal Saturday spent chatting to fellow student teachers and literature enthusiasts. Lots of useful resources were provided and lunch was pretty good too!
As a PGDE student from Northern Ireland, the discussion of the languages of Scotland was particularly interesting as it was something I knew very little about before moving to Glasgow.
I have realised that teaching Scottish literature to young learners is not necessarily a simple task. The conference introduced me to teaching challenging Scottish texts, from Walter Scott’s short stories to Janice Galloway’s novels including ‘The Trick is to Keep Breathing.’ Each of these texts present potential obstacles in their own way however, the conference has inspired me as an English teacher to embrace such challenges.
I left the ASLS conference with a greater understanding and appreciation of Scotland’s history and literary culture and a long list of new Scottish novels I can’t wait to start using in my classroom.
Jane Wilson, SATE Committee member
Our phones and PCs give us access to a wealth of resources and information on just about anything. As English teachers, we teach about bias and identifying quality sources. Even so, sorting through the chaff to access the kernels of useful information takes time.
For the second year running, I attended the ASLS Conference. It is my annual shortcut to high quality understanding of Scottish texts. (Being Canadian, I was raised in a different literary landscape.) The opportunity to hear from curriculum experts on specific set texts gives you new insight. Whether you are staring at a text for the first or looking it over for the 1000th, hearing someone else’s considered perspective rends it fresh and relevant.
The internet also provides global access to information; the ASLS conference narrows the focus to Scottish. Scottish texts as understood by Scottish teachers of English. On the day we delved into the works of James Robertson, ‘Men Should Weep’, ‘The Trick is to keep Breathing’, a fabulous round up of Scottish fiction for the BGE, introducing Walter Scott to the BGE…. It was resource-tastic both inside and out. Free teaching resources, discounted Scot Notes, literary magazine, posters (SATE lapel badges!) and delicious scran. I came last year out of interest. I returned this year for the quality of content and resources.
Rowan Climie, English Teacher, Queen Margaret Academy, Ayr
As always, a wide variety of texts were considered, ranging from Walter Scott to Janice Galloway. Each speaker conveyed their enthusiasm and passion clearly , delivering not only thorough and original papers on their chosen text but also addressing how these texts can be used successfully within the context of the classroom. Dr. Gillian Sargent discussed the challenges of teaching Galloway’s text and offered practical advice on how these can be overcome and Alison Lumsden explored ways in which Scott’s texts can be used as a stimulus for a range of creative writing activities.
In addition to the excellent speakers, we were treated to a celebration of work from writers of the future as the presentations were made for the Young Writer’s Award.
Overall, a great event which provided both practical advice and aimed to excite the our enthusiasm for the wealth of Scottish literature available to us and our pupils.
Colin Bain, English Teacher, Ellon Academy, Aberdeenshire
Having been teaching for three years, I have come to realise how important it is to share and receive the expertise of others to continue to grow and develop practice as a teacher. The ASLS School’s Conference on October 1st came highly recommended to me, and did not disappoint. This conference provided an entertaining and insightful look into important works of Scottish Literature and, more importantly, brought life to the teaching of these texts.
A rich mix of material was provided, addressing the need for clear and strong material and approaches for both National 5 and Higher. ‘The Testament of Gideon Mack’, ‘The Trick is to Keep Breathing’, and ‘Men Should Weep’ were all explored in a way that showed an understanding that whilst exams are an important part of the process and progress of a student’s learning, they are not the sole reason for which these texts were created. I certainly wish to (re)read these without my teacher hat on.
The richness of the Scots language, and the power that it has in the classroom was made clear, and the use of well chosen literature can really inspire and engage pupils. A portion of the day was given over to the Dictionary of the Scots Language, and their endless work documenting and formalising the state of our language was inspiring. Also, a great look into the up-and-coming work being published right now, including a power of work on Scottish Graphic Novels and Picture Books.
As I sat on the train on the way back to Aberdeen, bag filled with new resources and books (I’m a sucker for a book stall) I found myself inspired. I know a little bit more than I did before, some of it about the ‘old stuff’, and some of it about the ‘new’. Here’s tae ye, ASLS, for the conference – hopefully get the chance to attend in the future. See ye after.