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Identify and Explain the Key Quotes in the poem 'Checking Out Me History' by John Agard

In this worksheet, students will identify and explain key quotes in 'Checking Out Me History'

'Identify and Explain the Key Quotes in the poem 'Checking Out Me History' by John Agard' worksheet

Key stage:  KS 4

GCSE Subjects:   English Literature

GCSE Boards:   AQA

Curriculum topic:   Poetry

Curriculum subtopic:   Power and Conflict: 'Checking Out Me History'

Difficulty level:  

Worksheet Overview

QUESTION 1 of 10

For this activity, you will need to turn to the poem 'Checking Out Me History' by John Agard, which can be found in your Anthology.

 

 

tropical island

 

'Checking Out Me History' looks at how identity is created through history. 

 

The poem gives examples of powerful black figures from history, often involved in conflict themselves (against the oppression they faced).


Noticeably, Agard emphasises how we often celebrate our national or cultural history, without looking at the history and culture of those we were in conflict with.

 

In the following questions, you will be asked about the key quotations of the poem.

 

palm tree

 

 

In order to identify the key quotations in 'Checking Out Me History', we need to understand the meaning of the poem. Read the poem and match the questions to the answers below.

Column A

Column B

What is the poet at conflict with?
People in authority
What is noticeable about the style of the poem?
His own cultural identity and history
Who are "dem"?
The poet is at conflict with the way he was taught...
What does the poet want to "check out"?
The poet has written in a way that shows his accen...

Teacher reading

 

 

Now that you have read the poem 'Checking Out Me History', choose one of these summaries which you think best explains the poem.

 

The narrator has moved to a new school in a new country. He is surprised that he is not taught about the same historical figures as he was back home

The narrator is rebelling at the version of history he was taught at school. Back home his parents tell him about Caribbean figures

The narrator was not taught about his cultural heritage at school. He feel angry that figures from Caribbean history were not acknowledged

Throughout the poem, the poet uses the phrase,

 

"Dem tell me"

 

teacher with class

 

What do you think is the meaning of this quotation?

 

The poet cannot remember what the teachers taught him at school

The poet wanted to learn as much as possible at school

The poet is explaining how he only ever learnt what the teachers wanted him to

Read the following quotation from 'Checking Out Me History':

 

"Bandage up me eye with me own history"

 

eye

 

How does the narrator feel?

 

The narrator feels that it was too difficult to learn his own history

The narrator feels that his history has been hidden from him

The narrator feels that nobody knew about his history

The poet creates the idea that the version of history he was given, actually caused him harm.

 

 

bandaged thumb

 

 

Read the following extract from 'Checking Out Me History'. Underline two words which you think support the idea above.

\"Bandage up me eye with me own history Blind me to me own identity\"

In the following quotation, the narrator gives the reader an example of what he was taught:

 

"Dem tell me bout 1066 and all dat 
dem tell me bout Dick Whittington and he cat"

 

cat

 

 

What do you think is the meaning of this key quotation?

 

It creates a sense of the range of subjects he was taught

The mixture of fact and fiction creates a sense of confusion

It emphasises the fact that he was taught unimportant things

The poet describes historical Caribbean figures in an uplifting, positive tone. 

 

The following quotations are all from 'Checking Out Me History'. Choose two which support the point above.

"Blind me to me own identity"

"Toussaint de thorn to de French"

"Dem tell me bout de man who discover de balloon"

"Nanny see-far woman"

"Dem tell me bout Florence Nightingale"

Read the following quotation,

 

"Dem tell me bout Lord Nelson and Waterloo 
but dem never tell me bout Shaka de great Zulu"

 

 

ship

 

What do you notice about the historical figures here?

 

It is a contrast of two very different historical figures

It is a contrast of a famous British figure with a less well known figure from the poets cultural history

It is an example of two historical figures that the poet would like to know more about

The narrator describes Mary Seacole as:

 

"A healing star among the wounded" 

 

 

star in night sky

 

What impression does he create of her from this quotation?

 

She healed very quickly from her wounds

She tried to stop the war from happening

She helped many people who had been wounded

The last line of 'Checking Out Me History' explains how the narrator is:

 

"Carving out me identity".

 

axe

 

 

What is the narrator suggesting here?

 

The narrator wants to be taught again

The narrator has to work to create his true identity

The narrator has come to terms with not understanding his identity

  • Question 1

palm tree

 

 

In order to identify the key quotations in 'Checking Out Me History', we need to understand the meaning of the poem. Read the poem and match the questions to the answers below.

CORRECT ANSWER

Column A

Column B

What is the poet at conflict with...
The poet is at conflict with the ...
What is noticeable about the styl...
The poet has written in a way tha...
Who are "dem"?
People in authority
What does the poet want to "check...
His own cultural identity and his...
EDDIE SAYS
'Checking Out Me History' is an assertive, and justifiably angry poem, which links the history taught in school to one's cultural identity. The poet talks of "dem" (the people that taught him history) and it's clear that he feels a sense of alienation and resentment, as he feels "blinded" from his own history. He explains how, as an adult, he is now learning about his own cultural identity.
  • Question 2

Teacher reading

 

 

Now that you have read the poem 'Checking Out Me History', choose one of these summaries which you think best explains the poem.

 

CORRECT ANSWER
The narrator was not taught about his cultural heritage at school. He feel angry that figures from Caribbean history were not acknowledged
EDDIE SAYS
The first person narrator was not taught about his cultural heritage at school. He feels angry that important people from Caribbean history were not acknowledged. Now that he has found out about them, he is excited to learn more as this will help him form his own identity.
  • Question 3

Throughout the poem, the poet uses the phrase,

 

"Dem tell me"

 

teacher with class

 

What do you think is the meaning of this quotation?

 

CORRECT ANSWER
The poet is explaining how he only ever learnt what the teachers wanted him to
EDDIE SAYS
The quotation "Dem tell me" is a reference to the people in authority during the poet's childhood. The narrator is angry that he was only allowed to learn what they "told" him to (or dictated). It is because of this that he missed out on studying his own rich Caribbean history.
  • Question 4

Read the following quotation from 'Checking Out Me History':

 

"Bandage up me eye with me own history"

 

eye

 

How does the narrator feel?

 

CORRECT ANSWER
The narrator feels that his history has been hidden from him
EDDIE SAYS
The quotation "Bandage up me eye with me own history" shows that the narrator feels that the people who educated him caused him harm, as they stopped him from learning about his own cultural identity. The writer suggests that it was purposely done (to maintain eurocentric syllabi perhaps).
  • Question 5

The poet creates the idea that the version of history he was given, actually caused him harm.

 

 

bandaged thumb

 

 

Read the following extract from 'Checking Out Me History'. Underline two words which you think support the idea above.

CORRECT ANSWER
"Bandage up me eye with me own history
Blind me to me own identity"
EDDIE SAYS
The words "bandage" and "blind" are both negative words which suggest that the poet suffered because he was kept from learning about his own history and thus identity. They also suggest that the educational authority didn't want him to learn any Caribbean history, or didn't think it was important enough.
  • Question 6

In the following quotation, the narrator gives the reader an example of what he was taught:

 

"Dem tell me bout 1066 and all dat 
dem tell me bout Dick Whittington and he cat"

 

cat

 

 

What do you think is the meaning of this key quotation?

 

CORRECT ANSWER
The mixture of fact and fiction creates a sense of confusion
EDDIE SAYS
In this quotation, the narrator creates a sense of his confusion as a child. He was taught both fact and fiction, but as he could not relate to these things culturally, he did not understand what was real and what was not. To him, everything just sounded like stories. The phrase "and all dat" suggests that he could never engage with history that erased his own.
  • Question 7

The poet describes historical Caribbean figures in an uplifting, positive tone. 

 

The following quotations are all from 'Checking Out Me History'. Choose two which support the point above.

CORRECT ANSWER
"Toussaint de thorn to de French"
"Nanny see-far woman"
EDDIE SAYS
Both "Toussaint" and "Nanny" are famous figures from Caribbean history and the poem creates a great sense of pride from the narrator. Notice how the poet uses italics when describing the Caribbean figures? This is to signify a change of tone in the poem, a sense of importance to the narrator.
  • Question 8

Read the following quotation,

 

"Dem tell me bout Lord Nelson and Waterloo 
but dem never tell me bout Shaka de great Zulu"

 

 

ship

 

What do you notice about the historical figures here?

 

CORRECT ANSWER
It is a contrast of a famous British figure with a less well known figure from the poets cultural history
EDDIE SAYS
Throughout the poem, the narrator contrasts historical figures he was taught about, with people from his own cultural history. The point he makes is that both figures had a similar impact on history and both are to be admired and valued -although he was only taught about one of them.
  • Question 9

The narrator describes Mary Seacole as:

 

"A healing star among the wounded" 

 

 

star in night sky

 

What impression does he create of her from this quotation?

 

CORRECT ANSWER
She helped many people who had been wounded
EDDIE SAYS
Mary Seacole was a nurse who risked her life to help men who had been wounded in battle - very much like the more famous Florence Nightingale. The poet describes Mary Seacole with positive language, likening her to a "star" suggesting that she brought hope and light to the people who were wounded.
  • Question 10

The last line of 'Checking Out Me History' explains how the narrator is:

 

"Carving out me identity".

 

axe

 

 

What is the narrator suggesting here?

 

CORRECT ANSWER
The narrator has to work to create his true identity
EDDIE SAYS
The quotation "Carving out me identity" creates the impression that the narrator is willing to work hard to fill in the gaps of understanding in his own history. He understands that he has missed so much that this will take time and the verb "carving" (the act of using tools to shape something) suggests that he knows it will not be easy.
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