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Describe and Explain the Key Contextual Features of the Poem 'Checking Out Me History'

In this worksheet, students will describe the context of the poem 'Checking Out Me History' and explain its significance.

'Describe and Explain the Key Contextual Features of 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 your Anthology.

 

 

Caribbean beach

The poem was published in a collection entitled 'Half-Caste and Other Poems' (2007), a mixture of old and new poems aimed at a teenage audience. As one of a series of poems chosen to appeal directly to young adults, it deals with the issue of teaching history: "Dem tell me/Wha dem want to tell me".

The speaker suggests that because Black history and experience has been forgotten and ignored, what was taught to him was ignored his own experience of British society. More importantly, it "Blind me to me own identity". That is, only by finding out for himself about the historical and social achievements of Black people can the author develop a personal identity that reflects his cultural and racial roots. 

 

 

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

 

 

 

palm tree

 

 

In order to explore the context of '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"?
The poet is at conflict with the way he was taught...
What does the poet want to "check out"?
People in authority

Teacher reading a book

 

 

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

The context of 'Checking Out Me History' includes references to other people, songs and stories.

 

 

storybook fairy tale

 

 

Select the two statements about the poem that are true. 

There are references to well known British poems

Figures from British folklore are contrasted with important, real life figures

There are references to nursery rhymes

Figures from Caribbean history are briefly mentioned

Historical figures narrate part of the poem

The way in which the poem is written also creates meaning.

 

 

globe

 

Select three statements about the form and structure of the poem that are true.

The poem is written in Standard English

There is a mixture of stanza forms

The poem has a strict rhyme scheme

The poem is a dramatic monologue

The poem uses end rhyme heavily

The poem is in the third person

What do you notice in the italicised stanzas about Caribbean history? Select two answers.

They are all reported speech

The figures they describe seem unimportant

The lines are shorter than the other stanzas

They have more words

They include quotations

Words and phrases are broken up more

John Agard was born in Guyana, South America, which was a British colony until 1966. Agard moved to the UK in 1977, where he still lives.

 

 

aeroplane

 

 

Which of these summaries best describes the context of 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.

John Agard was educated in a country with strong cultural and historical ties to the Caribbean. Guyana was a British colony until 1966 and the poet's education was largely focused on British history.

 

coconut tree

 

 

How would you describe the narrator's attitude in the poem?

 

Fearful

Confused

Ashamed

Angry

The poet is known for his use of free verse and dialect, which he uses to make a serious point in a witty way.

 

speech marks

 

What type of dialect does the poem use?

 

Rhyming slang

Caribbean dialect

Standard English

Pigeon English

The poem does not use any punctuation.

 

 

pebbles on beach

 

 

Why do you think he has chosen to write in this way?

 

He doesn't understand how to use it

He doesn't use full sentences to show that his education was not good

It reflects his ongoing journey of self discovery

It would make the poem too difficult to read

Consider the descriptions of the three historical figures described in the poem - Toussaint L'Ouverture, Nanny de Maroon and Mary Seacole.

 

What do the descriptions of these characters have in common?

 

They are described using weather metaphors

Similes compare them with soaring birds

They are described using nature metaphors

Similes compare them to brave warriors

  • Question 1

palm tree

 

 

In order to explore the context of '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 passionate poem, which links the reductive history taught in schools to the development of one's own cultural identity. The poet talks of "dem" (those who taught the poet history) and it's clear that he feels a sense of alienation and anger, as he was "blinded" from his own history. He explains how, only now as an adult, he has learnt about his own cultural identity.
  • Question 2

Teacher reading a book

 

 

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

The context of 'Checking Out Me History' includes references to other people, songs and stories.

 

 

storybook fairy tale

 

 

Select the two statements about the poem that are true. 

CORRECT ANSWER
Figures from British folklore are contrasted with important, real life figures
There are references to nursery rhymes
EDDIE SAYS
References to nursery rhymes are used to make British History seem childish. Figures that you may have heard about from British folklore such as "Robin Hood" and "Old King Cole" are contrasted with crucial, humanitarian real-life figures like Mary Seacole. This creates the light, humorous tone which the poet uses to make his point that the latter should be taught.
  • Question 4

The way in which the poem is written also creates meaning.

 

 

globe

 

Select three statements about the form and structure of the poem that are true.

CORRECT ANSWER
There is a mixture of stanza forms
The poem is a dramatic monologue
The poem uses end rhyme heavily
EDDIE SAYS
The poem is a dramatic monologue, which is when a narrator expresses their feelings to a silent audience. There is a mixture of stanza forms, which suggests that the poet did not want to stick to any rules! There is also a strong sense of rhyme at the end of each line.
  • Question 5

What do you notice in the italicised stanzas about Caribbean history? Select two answers.

CORRECT ANSWER
The lines are shorter than the other stanzas
Words and phrases are broken up more
EDDIE SAYS
The italicised stanzas have shorter lines than the other stanzas - in fact, some lines are a single word! This emphasises the information in these stanzas and creates the impression that the poet has a lot of respect for the people he is describing.
  • Question 6

John Agard was born in Guyana, South America, which was a British colony until 1966. Agard moved to the UK in 1977, where he still lives.

 

 

aeroplane

 

 

Which of these summaries best describes the context of 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 justified anger 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 7

John Agard was educated in a country with strong cultural and historical ties to the Caribbean. Guyana was a British colony until 1966 and the poet's education was largely focused on British history.

 

coconut tree

 

 

How would you describe the narrator's attitude in the poem?

 

CORRECT ANSWER
Angry
EDDIE SAYS
The narrator is angry because he wasn't taught about important Caribbean figures. He feels let down by the education system because it ignored his cultural heritage.
  • Question 8

The poet is known for his use of free verse and dialect, which he uses to make a serious point in a witty way.

 

speech marks

 

What type of dialect does the poem use?

 

CORRECT ANSWER
Caribbean dialect
EDDIE SAYS
The poem is written using Caribbean dialect, which connects the narrator with his heritage. The poem is written in the way he speaks and shows that he is proud of his heritage and does not feel the need to change his writing into standard English.
  • Question 9

The poem does not use any punctuation.

 

 

pebbles on beach

 

 

Why do you think he has chosen to write in this way?

 

CORRECT ANSWER
It reflects his ongoing journey of self discovery
EDDIE SAYS
The poet misses out punctuation on purpose, to reflect his ongoing journey of self-discovery. He has not finished learning about his culture and is in the process of re-educating himself.
  • Question 10

Consider the descriptions of the three historical figures described in the poem - Toussaint L'Ouverture, Nanny de Maroon and Mary Seacole.

 

What do the descriptions of these characters have in common?

 

CORRECT ANSWER
They are described using nature metaphors
EDDIE SAYS
All three historical figures are described using nature metaphors. Toussaint L'Ouverture is a "thorn", Nanny de Maroon is connected to the mountains, fires and rivers; Mary Seacole is a "healing star" and "yellow sunrise" to the dying. These natural images evoke power and hope.
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