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Evaluate the Effectiveness of Presentation of Themes in the Poem 'Checking Out Me History'

In this worksheet, students will examine how key themes are presented and, evaluate their effectiveness, in the poem 'Checking Out Me History' by John Agard.

'Evaluate the Effectiveness of Presentation of Themes 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 conflicts themselves in one way or another.
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 poet presents these key themes and evaluate their effectiveness. 

 

palm tree

 

 

In order to evaluate the effectiveness of the 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?
His own cultural identity and history
Who are "dem"?
People in authority
What does the poet want to "check out"?
The poet is at conflict with the reductive way he ...

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

A main theme in the poem is identity. Read the following quotation,

 

"Blind me to me own identity"

 

 

 

eye

 

 

What is the effect of this quotation? Choose two emotions that you think the reader might feel.

Sympathy

Anger

Humour

The theme of identity is used again in the following quotation,

 

 

"I carving out me identity"

 

 

 

axe

 

 

What is the effect of this quotation?

 

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

Another theme in the poem is pride which is shown in the following quotation,

 

"She still brave the Russian snow"

 

 

snowy mountains

 

Can you underline the word in this quotation that creates the effect of pride?

\"She still brave the Russian snow\"

The theme of pride is again used in the following quotation,

 

"Toussaint de thorn 
to de French"

 

 

thorn

 

 

What is the effect of this quotation?

 

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

The theme of power is presented in the following quotation:

 

 "Blind me to me own identity"

 

dark path

 

Can you match the words to their effect?

Column A

Column B

Blind
Creates the impression that the narrator was stopp...
Identity
Creates the impression that the narrator did not u...

The last line of the poem creates a different effect in terms of power:

 

"But now I checking out me own history"

 

 

ship

 

 

How does the narrator feel at the end of the poem? Choose two emotions from below.

Determined

Sad

Hopeful

Happy

The theme of education is presented in the following quotation,

 

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

 

 

girl exploring a globe

 

What is the effect of this quotation? Choose two emotions that you think the narrator is feeling?
Happy

Confused

Determined

Angry

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 evaluate the effectiveness of the 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 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', 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

A main theme in the poem is identity. Read the following quotation,

 

"Blind me to me own identity"

 

 

 

eye

 

 

What is the effect of this quotation? Choose two emotions that you think the reader might feel.

CORRECT ANSWER
Sympathy
Anger
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. This makes the reader feel sympathy that he had this opportunity taken away from him and anger that his culture was disregarded by people more powerful.
  • Question 4

The theme of identity is used again in the following quotation,

 

 

"I carving out me identity"

 

 

 

axe

 

 

What is the effect of this quotation?

 

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

Another theme in the poem is pride which is shown in the following quotation,

 

"She still brave the Russian snow"

 

 

snowy mountains

 

Can you underline the word in this quotation that creates the effect 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 help many wounded soldiers. The poet uses the word "brave" to show how proud he was of her determination to aid wounded men.
  • Question 6

The theme of pride is again used in the following quotation,

 

"Toussaint de thorn 
to de French"

 

 

thorn

 

 

What is the effect of this quotation?

 

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, this creates the impression that he was strong enough to cause such an economically dominant nation (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

The theme of power is presented in the following quotation:

 

 "Blind me to me own identity"

 

dark path

 

Can you match the words to their effect?

CORRECT ANSWER

Column A

Column B

Blind
Creates the impression that the n...
Identity
Creates the impression that the n...
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 just like the place where he once lived was colonised by a violent, overpowering force.
  • Question 8

The last line of the poem creates a different effect in terms of power:

 

"But now I checking out me own history"

 

 

ship

 

 

How does the narrator feel at the end of the poem? Choose two emotions from below.

CORRECT ANSWER
Determined
Hopeful
EDDIE SAYS
The quotation "But now I checking out me own history" shows that the theme of power has changed by the end of the poem and the narrator is in control of his own education and learning. He feels determined to fill the gaps by learning all about his own history and remains hopeful that he will be able to share this information and give his history the respect it deserves.
  • Question 9

The theme of education is presented in the following quotation,

 

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

 

 

girl exploring a globe

 

What is the effect of this quotation? Choose two emotions that you think the narrator is feeling?
CORRECT ANSWER
Confused
Angry
EDDIE SAYS
In this quotation, the narrator creates an impression of the confusion he felt as a child. He knows that the "Caribs" and the "Arawaks" were around in the period he was studying, but he has no idea what happened to them. As a child, he did not understand why he wasn't also learning about them. As an adult, he now feels angry as he has learnt that they were not considered as important as British history.
  • 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 no education in terms of his own cultural history and now has some big gaps in 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 he has a closer link to. This creates a sense of injustice as the "Caribs" and the "Arawaks" not only lost their lands but their culture and history were not seen as important enough to be studied, remembered and valued.

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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