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Explore How Key Themes Develop in the Poem 'Checking Out Me History'

In this worksheet, students will undertake an exploration of how the key themes develop in the poem 'Checking Out Me History'.

'Explore How Key Themes Develop in the Poem '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 a conflict against the oppression they faced.


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

 

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

 

In the following questions, you will be asked about how these themes develop throughout the poem.

 

palm tree

 

 

In order to identify how the key themes develop 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 is at conflict with the way he was taught...
What is noticeable about the style of the poem?
People in authority
Who are "dem"?
His own cultural identity and history
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', 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"

Let's have a look at how the theme of identity is developed throughout the poem. What does the following quotation explain to the reader?

 

"I carving out me identity"

 

 

 

axe

 

 

Choose one explanation from below.

 

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

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"

Let's have a look at how the theme of pride is developed throughout the poem. The narrator gives another example of why he is proud of his cultural history,

 

"Toussaint de thorn 
to de French"

 

 

thorn

 

 

Why does this quotation also create a feeling of pride?

 

It creates the impression that Toussaint was a difficult person

It creates the impression that Toussaint was someone to be admired and remembered

It creates the impression that Toussaint had a very difficult life

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"

Let's have a look at how the theme of power is developed in the following quotation,

 

"But now I checking out me own history".

 

ship

 

How has the theme of power developed?

 

The narrator feels that people in power have taken away his chance to learn

The narrator now has the power to learn about what he chooses

The narrator now has the power to make other people understand his cultural history

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

Let's have a look at how the theme of education develops throughout the poem.

 

Read the following quotation,

 

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

 

man reading

 

 

​How does the narrator use the theme of education to explain how he feels?

 

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

  • Question 1

palm tree

 

 

In order to identify how the key themes develop 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 separation and anger, 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

Let's have a look at how the theme of identity is developed throughout the poem. What does the following quotation explain to the reader?

 

"I carving out me identity"

 

 

 

axe

 

 

Choose one explanation from below.

 

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.
  • 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 (just like Florence Nightingale) during the Crimean War who risked her life to help many wounded soldiers. The poet uses the word "brave" to illustrate how proud he was of her determination to get the wounded men.
  • Question 6

Let's have a look at how the theme of pride is developed throughout the poem. The narrator gives another example of why he is proud of his cultural history,

 

"Toussaint de thorn 
to de French"

 

 

thorn

 

 

Why does this quotation also create a feeling of pride?

 

CORRECT ANSWER
It creates the impression that Toussaint was someone to be admired and remembered
EDDIE SAYS
A metaphor is used to describe Toussaint as being a "thorn" to the French which conveys the impression that he was strong enough to cause such an economically dominant nation (as France) great trouble during battle. The narrator is clearly proud of what Toussaint achieved. 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 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 suggests that he didn't have a choice over what he was learning and that the place where he lived was taken over by more powerful people.
  • Question 8

Let's have a look at how the theme of power is developed in the following quotation,

 

"But now I checking out me own history".

 

ship

 

How has the theme of power developed?

 

CORRECT ANSWER
The narrator now has the power to learn about what he chooses
EDDIE SAYS
The quotation "But now I checking out me own history" shows that the theme of power has progressed by the end of the poem as the narrator is now in control of his own education and learning. He has been told what to do and what history to learn for so long, that he now wants everyone to know how great his own culture is and how he is going to learn about it.
  • 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 were gaps in his childhood understanding of history, and wants to know what happened to the "Caribs and de Arawaks", the native people of South America and the Caribbean.
  • Question 10

Let's have a look at how the theme of education develops throughout the poem.

 

Read the following quotation,

 

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

 

man reading

 

 

​How does the narrator use the theme of education to explain how he feels?

 

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

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
Example answer: The narrator feels as though he was given a biased historical education which left big gaps in his historical knowledge. He explains that he knows all about British history but uses a rhetorical question to ask "what happen to de Caribs and de Arawaks too", who he feels personally more linked to. This creates a sense of injustice as the "Caribs" and the "Arawaks" not only violently had their lands taken away but their culture and history was not seen as important enough to be studied and remembered.

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 the 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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