Here are some ideas you might like to try when teaching John Agard’s poem Checking Out Me History.
- As identity is so central to this poem, I always start by asking students to create a mind map of what makes their identity. If they get stuck you might want to prompt them with the following ideas:
- Fashion / personal style
- Favourite music / films / art etc
- Physical characteristics
- Language, dialect and accent
- Politics / ideas
- Favourite sports / teams
- Hobbies and interests
- Religion / beliefs
- Country / town / city you live in
I would then ask the class to circulate and talk to one another about the similarities and differences they have in what makes up their identity.
- Give the students just the following two lines from the poem and ask them what they think the poem might be about:
- “Dem tell me”
- “No dem never tell me bout dat”
- Hold a class discussion about what your students are taught in history. Do they think it is relevant to them? Why / why not? Is there any history they would like to know more about? What is it and why? It is useful to give students some silent reflection time for these questions before the discussion.
- . The poem is obviously rich in context, so I think some pre-reading research is essential. Ask the students to write a couple of lines of research for each of the following, then categorise them into stories and nursery rhymes, European history and African / Caribbean history. When you have read the poem these categories can be a useful starting point for discussion.
|The Battle of Hastings|
|Old King Cole|
|Nanny of the Maroons|
|The Battle of Waterloo|
|The Carbs and Arawaks|
5. There’s a great video from the BBC of Agard explaining and reading his poem which students find useful:
- One of my all-time favourite things to do with this poem is simple. Get students to recite it. I know I am guilty of not focusing on oracy skills enough and this poem is a great way to do it. If your students are shy they could work in pairs and take a stanza each. I once had a very quiet student come to the front and perform this with such passion and enthusiasm it was one of my best ever teacher moments!
- There are many feelings and attitudes which are presented in the poem. Ask students to find quotations which support each of the following:
- Here’s a short missing word quiz, with answers, I have created for the poem. This can be used as a mini plenary or as a starting point for discussion.
I do hope you enjoy trying out some of these ideas. If you have any you’d like to share please add them to the comment box below.
Have a lovely weekend!