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Identify and Explain the Key Themes 'Checking Out Me History'

In this worksheet, students will identify the key themes in the poem 'Checking Out Me History' and recognise their significance.

'Identify and Explain the Key Themes '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.

 

 

Caribbean beach

 

 

The poem gives examples of powerful black figures from history, often involved in conflict themselves.


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

 

The main themes of the poem include Identity, Pride, Power and Anger.

 

In the following questions, you will be asked about the significance of these themes.

 

palm tree

 

 

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

Teacher reading

 

 

Now that you have read the poem 'Checking Out Me History', which summary below do 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

A key theme of the poem is identity.

 

Identity = Who a person is, their qualities and what makes them different from other people.

 

 

eye

 

The following quotations are all from 'Checking Out Me History'. Choose one which you think supports the theme of identity.

 

"Wha dem want to tell me"

"Dem tell me bout 1066 and all dat"

"Blind me to me own identity"

Another key theme of the poem is belonging.

 

The narrator did not feel connected to the history he was taught as a child.

 

teacher with class

 

 

The following quotations are all from 'Checking Out Me History'. Choose one which you think supports the theme of belonging.

 

"But Toussaint L’Ouverture"

"Dem tell me"

"Fire-woman struggle"

The poem also creates the theme of pride.

 

Pride = a feeling of pleasure or admiration created from the achievements of those with whom one is closely associated.

 

globe

 

The following quotations are all from 'Checking Out Me History'. Choose one which you think supports the theme of pride.

 

"De dish ran away with de spoon"

"Dem tell me wha dem want to tell me"

"She still brave the Russian snow"

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

 

"but dem never tell me bout Mary Seacole"

 

 

bandaged hand

 

 

Which theme does this quotation relate to?

 

Identity

Choice

Conflict

A key theme of the poem is power.

 

dark path

 

The following quotations are all from 'Checking Out Me History'. Choose one which you think supports the theme of power.

 

"De man who discover de balloon"

"Blind me to me own identity"

"But what happen to de Caribs and de Arawaks"

A key theme of the poem is anger.

 

 

ship

 

The following quotations are all from 'Checking Out Me History'. Choose one which you think supports the theme of anger.

 

"De man who discover de balloon"

"Blind me to me own identity"

"But what happen to de Caribs and de Arawaks"

Read the following quotation,

 

"But what happen to de Caribs and de Arawaks too".

 

 

star in night sky

 

What theme does this quotation most relate to?

 

Anger

Identity

Education

man reading

 

 

Can you match the theme to the quotation below?

Column A

Column B

Identity
"But dem never tell me bout Mary Seacole"
Pride
"I carving out me identity"
Power
"But now I checking out me own history"
Anger
"but what happen to de Caribs and de Arawaks too"
Choice
"Bandage up me eye with me own history"
Education
"She still brave the Russian snow"
  • Question 1

palm tree

 

 

In order to identify the key themes 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's clear that he feels a sense of alienation and resentment, as he feels he was "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', which summary below do 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

A key theme of the poem is identity.

 

Identity = Who a person is, their qualities and what makes them different from other people.

 

 

eye

 

The following quotations are all from 'Checking Out Me History'. Choose one which you think supports the theme of identity.

 

CORRECT ANSWER
"Blind me to me own identity"
EDDIE SAYS
The quotation "Blind me to me own identity " explains how the narrator feels that by not being taught about his own cultural history, he has not been able to understand who he really is. He feels that he has lost out on learning about his history and culture as a child and has to now make up for that as an adult, by teaching himself.
  • Question 4

Another key theme of the poem is belonging.

 

The narrator did not feel connected to the history he was taught as a child.

 

teacher with class

 

 

The following quotations are all from 'Checking Out Me History'. Choose one which you think supports the theme of belonging.

 

CORRECT ANSWER
"Dem tell me"
EDDIE SAYS
The quotation "Dem tell me" creates the impression that the narrator did not feel that he fit in or belonged with the people teaching him as a child. Throughout the poem, he refers to the people in authority as "dem" which suggests he feels they are separate and different to him. He does not belong with them or their history.
  • Question 5

The poem also creates the theme of pride.

 

Pride = a feeling of pleasure or admiration created from the achievements of those with whom one is closely associated.

 

globe

 

The following quotations are all from 'Checking Out Me History'. Choose one which you think supports the theme of pride.

 

CORRECT ANSWER
"She still brave the Russian snow"
EDDIE SAYS
You've probably heard of Florence Nightingale. But do you know about Mary Seacole, who the poet is referring to here? She was a nurse (like Florence Nightingale) during the Crimean War and risked her life to aid wounded soldiers. The poet uses the word "brave" to show how proud he was of her determination to reach the wounded men.
  • Question 6

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

 

"but dem never tell me bout Mary Seacole"

 

 

bandaged hand

 

 

Which theme does this quotation relate to?

 

CORRECT ANSWER
Choice
EDDIE SAYS
This quotation supports the theme of choice as the poet is explaining how he didn't have any choice over the history he was taught. If he'd had choice, he would have enjoyed learning about historical figures, such as Mary Seacole, from his own cultural identity too!
  • Question 7

A key theme of the poem is power.

 

dark path

 

The following quotations are all from 'Checking Out Me History'. Choose one which you think supports the theme of power.

 

CORRECT ANSWER
"Blind me to me own identity"
EDDIE SAYS
The quotation "Blind me to me own identity" uses the aggressive verb "blind" to suggest that the narrator was stopped from learning about his own identity by people more powerful than him. It coveys the feeling that he didn't have a choice over what he was learning in the same way that the place where his family are from was taken over by more powerful people.
  • Question 8

A key theme of the poem is anger.

 

 

ship

 

The following quotations are all from 'Checking Out Me History'. Choose one which you think supports the theme of anger.

 

CORRECT ANSWER
"Blind me to me own identity"
EDDIE SAYS
The quotation "But now I checking out me own history" conveys a sense of defiance and pride from the narrator. In his childhood, he learnt a eurocentric history however now he is able to educate himself on his own history and celebrate black figures in history.
  • Question 9

Read the following quotation,

 

"But what happen to de Caribs and de Arawaks too".

 

 

star in night sky

 

What theme does this quotation most relate to?

 

CORRECT ANSWER
Education
EDDIE SAYS
This quotation relates to the theme of education, as it highlights the fact that the narrator was left with many questions after he had been taught. He feels that there are gaps in his history and wants to know what happened to the "Caribs and de Arawaks", who were native people who had been driven out of their lands.
  • Question 10

man reading

 

 

Can you match the theme to the quotation below?

CORRECT ANSWER

Column A

Column B

Identity
"I carving out me identity"
Pride
"She still brave the Russian snow...
Power
"Bandage up me eye with me own hi...
Anger
"But now I checking out me own hi...
Choice
"But dem never tell me bout Mary ...
Education
"but what happen to de Caribs and...
EDDIE SAYS
This poem has a number of themes running through and creates a powerful message about the importance of culture and identity. It also criticises those in power, who may choose to ignore a cultural history that they believe is not as important as their own. The poet conveys both a sense of pride for his country and a sense of urgency and anger, that he was not given the opportunity to understand his own background.
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