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Analyse the Language in 'Checking Out Me History'

In this worksheet, students will analyse the language devices used in the poem 'Checking Out Me History' by John Agard. Students will also gain an understanding of the wider context of the poem.

'Analyse the Language in 'Checking Out Me History' ' 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 the Power and Conflict section of 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 conflicts themselves in one way or another.


Noticeably, the poet emphasises how we often celebrate our eurocentric national or cultural history, without looking at the history and culture of those we historically oppressed.

 

 

In the following questions, you will be asked to analyse the language devices used in the poem.

 

palm tree

 

In order to identify the language devices used 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?
His own cultural identity and history
What is noticeable about the style of the poem?
People in authority
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

Let's recap your knowledge of language devices so that we know what to look for in the poem.

 

 

Writing paper

 

 

Match the language device to the definition.

Column A

Column B

Alliteration
Words which sound like the effect they describe
Simile
Comparing two or more objects with the words "like...
Onomatopoeia
Words beginning with the same letter sounds
Metaphor
Two words placed together with different meanings ...
Personification
Describing an inanimate object or animal with huma...
Oxymoron
Direct comparison of two things without using the ...

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

 

"Bandage up me eye with me own history".

 

eye

 

What language device does the poet use here? 

 

Onomatopoeia

Metaphor

Personification

In 'Checking Out Me History', the poet uses repetition to describe how other people decided what he should learn.

 

 

teacher with class

 

 

Read through the poem and choose one quotation which is an example of this repetition.

 

"From Jamaica"

"To the Crimean War"

"Dem tell me"

The poet uses juxtaposition to describe what he was taught as a child.

 

Juxtaposition = two things being seen or placed close together with contrasting effect

 

 

cat

 

 

Which of the following quotations is an example of this juxtaposition?

 

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

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

The poet uses metaphor to describe historical Caribbean figures in very positive terms. 

 

 

 

 

The following quotations are all from 'Checking Out Me History'. Choose two which you think are an example of metaphor and 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 fire-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 language device is being used here?

 

Personification

Contrast

Metaphor

The narrator describes Mary Seacole as:

 

"A healing star among the wounded"

 

 

star in night sky

 

What language device is being used here?

 

Juxtaposition

Simile

Metaphor

The last line of 'Checking Out Me History' uses a metaphor to explain how the narrator is:

 

"Carving out me identity"

 

 

axe

 

 


Can you explain the language device used in this quotation?

 

For this question, you will have to write your answer using the PEE format - Make a point, give an example, explain with deeper detail.

  • Question 1

palm tree

 

In order to identify the language devices used 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 cultural identity. The poet talks of "dem" (the people who taught him history) and it is clear that he feels a sense of separation and anger, as he feels he was "blinded" from (prevented from learning about) 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 understand and nurture his own identity and roots.
  • Question 3

Let's recap your knowledge of language devices so that we know what to look for in the poem.

 

 

Writing paper

 

 

Match the language device to the definition.

CORRECT ANSWER

Column A

Column B

Alliteration
Words beginning with the same let...
Simile
Comparing two or more objects wit...
Onomatopoeia
Words which sound like the effect...
Metaphor
Direct comparison of two things w...
Personification
Describing an inanimate object or...
Oxymoron
Two words placed together with di...
EDDIE SAYS
Well done if you managed to match them all! Language devices are a great way for poets to create imagery and convey tone. They also get you more marks in the exam, if you can identify them! Remember to always look out for language devices and try to use them when you are analysing a quotation.
  • Question 4

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

 

"Bandage up me eye with me own history".

 

eye

 

What language device does the poet use here? 

 

CORRECT ANSWER
Metaphor
EDDIE SAYS
The quotation "Bandage up me eye with me own history" is a metaphor to describe how the poet was kept from "seeing" his own history and identity. It shows that the narrator feels that the people who educated him actually caused him harm, as they stopped him from learning about his own cultural identity, purposefully.
  • Question 5

In 'Checking Out Me History', the poet uses repetition to describe how other people decided what he should learn.

 

 

teacher with class

 

 

Read through the poem and choose one quotation which is an example of this repetition.

 

CORRECT ANSWER
"Dem tell me"
EDDIE SAYS
The quotation "Dem tell me" is repeated throughout the poem and is a reference to the people in authority during the poet's childhood. He is angry that he was only allowed to learn what they "told" him to as because of this, he missed out on studying his own rich Carribean history.
  • Question 6

The poet uses juxtaposition to describe what he was taught as a child.

 

Juxtaposition = two things being seen or placed close together with contrasting effect

 

 

cat

 

 

Which of the following quotations is an example of this juxtaposition?

 

CORRECT ANSWER
"Dem tell me bout 1066 and all dat. Dem tell me bout Dick Whittington and he cat"
EDDIE SAYS
In this quotation, the poet creates a juxtaposition between the eurocentric history and fiction he learnt as a child, conveying his confusion at the time. 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 sounded like a fictional story. The phrase "and all dat" suggests that he was never really interested in this reductive history, it's tone flippant.
  • Question 7

The poet uses metaphor to describe historical Caribbean figures in very positive terms. 

 

 

 

 

The following quotations are all from 'Checking Out Me History'. Choose two which you think are an example of metaphor and support the point above.

CORRECT ANSWER
"Toussaint de thorn to de French"
"Nanny fire-woman"
EDDIE SAYS
Both "Toussaint" and "Nanny" are described with metaphorical capabilities. Toussaint is described as being a "thorn" to the French which creates the impression that he was strong enough to cause such an economically dominant nation (France) great trouble during battle. Nanny is described as "fire" which again creates this sense of power and determination. 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 language device is being used here?

 

CORRECT ANSWER
Contrast
EDDIE SAYS
Throughout the poem, the narrator contrasts historical figures he was taught about, with important figures 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 - the difference is that 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 language device is being used here?

 

CORRECT ANSWER
Metaphor
EDDIE SAYS
The poet uses a metaphor to describe Mary Seacole as a "star". Mary was a nurse who risked her life, helping men who had been wounded in battle - very much like the more famous Florence Nightingale. The poet describes Mary Seacole with uplifting language, likening her to a "star" suggests that she brought hope and light to the people who were wounded.
  • Question 10

The last line of 'Checking Out Me History' uses a metaphor to explain how the narrator is:

 

"Carving out me identity"

 

 

axe

 

 


Can you explain the language device used in this quotation?

 

For this question, you will have to write your answer using the PEE format - Make a point, give an example, explain with deeper detail.

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
Example answer: The poem ends with the narrator explaining what he plans to do. He uses the metaphor "Carving out me identity" to create the impression that he is willing to work hard to fill in the gaps in his understanding in his personal history. He understands that he has missed so much so this process will take time, the verb "carving" suggests that he knows it will not be easy, but it will be worthwhile and meaningful.

Although the whole of this question is marked out of 30, for this answer the student will only be making one point (AQA recommends that a student makes 3 comparison points throughout the essay) so we will mark this answer out of 6.
In order to gain full marks on this question the student should have written an extended paragraph that follows the PEE structure.
You should find a point, an example and an explanation.
The paragraph should include a quotation, language technique and some evaluation.

Try it ---- OR ----

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