Catch Me If You Can – Creative Writing Task

Catch Me If You Can – Creative Writing Task

Okay, imagine once again that you get this, or something like it, based on a film. It is a creative writing assessment. We as teachers, or those who are as ancient as me, will know this sort of task as a piece of ‘Original Writing.’ It is a [600-word] diary extract, or monologue [see my other blog piece on this website, called ‘Monologues and how to write them’] and is one of the most enjoyable assessments you are likely to have to do simply because you can be creative, cheeky and humorous.

One would think, as a teacher, that the group of students have seen the film before getting this task. If someone had not seen the film before the assessment then said students would not know what to do or how to write this task.

The task

Apologies for the cut-off of one word. This is how I received it.


Notes on the film

  • Catch Me If You Can stars Tom Hanks and Leo DiCaprio
  • It tells the tale of Frank Abagnale Jr [true story – Google it]
  • Young Frank sees his Mum and Dad divorce in the 60s [I think]
  • He runs away and forges a cheque [it was a lot easier then to do that than now]
  • He does this again and again and again and for over a decade is chased by the FBI
  • His attitude is one of CATCH ME IF YOU CAN
  • In the end, he is caught and serves a lot of time in jail in America
  • The anti-fraud department who caught him use him to develop their skills
  • Eventually, he is freed on licence and has to serve his time working for the FBI
  • If he flees the country, he will be caught and serve his time in jail
  • Eventually, his time served, he comes to work for the FBI and is a major cause of the things that banks now have in place to stop fraud. Those things you take for granted each day were put in place by him
  • This is a TRUE STORY and is widely available on the Internet

The Task

You now have to prepare a 600-word diary account about a new scam/fraud he has dreamed up. Now on face value, that sounds okay, but what is the ‘scam’ to be? That is the hard part. If you are honest, law abiding, then you will not have a clue. So what kind of frauds are there [considering this is set in the 1960s]? This is where Mr Google comes in.

If you type “cheque fraud in the 1960s” into Google, you are likely to get the first link appear as a pdf. If not, then use the link below…

I advise you to download this. It will tell you of some of the things you may then be able to use, in your own words of course. For heaven’s sake, do not copy bits of this word for word. Rehash the ideas and use them.

You simply HAVE to try to be as cheeky as Frank Abagnale Jr in your writing. This is where seeing the film is a good thing so if you have Netflix or Now TV, then get the thing watched before you do this writing, or even before preparing it.

So, let us now say that you have watched the film and that you have seen the task and have prepared some ideas about frauds that did happen. You find on the Internet, the ‘pdf’ mentioned below and you use an idea from it. Which one do you use? The answer is up to you but if this was me preparing for this assessment, then I would see the picture below on page 13 of 50 of the pdf I mentioned and jump for joy…

Screenshot 2015-12-09 07.32.32

The reason is that there is a reference to a machine there and Frank used machines he bought from the money he stole by cashing cheques to write new cheques. I would see the picture above and see that there was a Recordak Microfilm Apparatus used in the UK by banks for cheques that had been lost.

This is the way my brain works….

  1. If Frank bought machines then he would buy one of these
  2. So he goes and buys one when a bank closes and sells off its stuff [see the film for a scene where this happens]
  3. He then uses it to create cheques that are supposed to be ones lost but have not even been written yet
  4. He tries it out and it is successful but he does it in banks that are in different parts of the USA
  5. He manages to steal $50,000 as a result
  6. And then he writes it down [this is where the task fails because he wouldn’t do this for fear of being caught]

Your task, should you choose to accept it, is to write the thing.

Now go and have a go. Be as creative as possible. Write it in PAST TENSE because it has already happened. But please note this: there will be other things in that pdf that you could use so if your teacher sees 32 of these all mentioning a Recordak device, then she will know 31 of you have cheated and disqualify the lot of you if you write something that is simply copying.

Do not forget that this task, when you come to write it, should take 80 minutes. I would prepare it so that it took me 60 minutes; to make sure I can get this done. 600 words of type is one page. 600 words of handwriting is more like 2-3 pages. Planning is vital for your success.

As the Balkan man says in the film ‘Taken,’ “good luck!”


An English Language Jigsaw Puzzle [4705]

Spoken English Component

Sometimes, we teachers can over think something when it comes to assessments.

When it comes to the spoken language component here is an example, that I was handed today by a former student of mine, who has a friend from Kurdistan, who is doing GCSE English language this year.

This is the controlled assessment he received recently.

[I would complain if I was a student and got this as a Controlled Assessment].

Here it is.


The key words in the initial title are “language features” which need to be discussed in detail by anyone writing an answer to this one. So what does that mean? Well, it means how language features, such as ellipsis and fillers are used. There is usually a transcript given at this point.

Here it is below.


The man speaking is the actor Ray Winston. For those who have no clue, here is a picture.


Now he has been around the block in terms of acting, usually playing the thug, or the killer. He is known for playing the hard man roles and has made a living doing so, becoming famous as a result. He is a Cockney, one who is born under the geography of the Bow bells in East London and conventionally is known to be “a bit of a geezer” when it comes to his style of speaking and living. He is one of my favourite actors mainly because he brings an honesty and the use of real language to films. When he swears, it seems natural and not convoluted in any way.

Back to the assessment. Here are some notes the student received. Have a look at them and check out the way the teacher expects the student to answer the questions or complete the task set.

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Are you confused yet? I was when I looked at these items. The first look is sometimes where confusion comes. It can be a time when you scratch your head and wonder what is happening, as if you have been given something in a different language. For this student, who is from Kurdistan, who will speak another Mother Tongue, other than English, this would be a terrible assessment to choose.

Imagine how hard learning another language would be and then try to add in this assessment. I would have no clue if I was a student in Kurdistan doing this in his Mother Tongue.

Bravo that man!

So, how do you write an answer to this one? With all this information, there seems to be one thing missing; the context. What the hell is “Luke’s English Podcast?” Is it radio because of the word “audio?” Is it television because of the words “chat show?” Because there is not enough information given, it is impossible to determine the full social context, so I am assuming it is a television chat show. This would explain Winston’s use of profanity [swear words]. It would also suggest how comfortable he feels when speaking. Here, he is much at ease with himself, leading to the use of the swear word.

So, with context, one can begin.

One of these sheets gives us a chance to write some detailed stuff about Ray Winston. I would avoid that in any detail. I would do it, but only in passing. I would want to get my PEE [D] chains going as soon as possible into the essay. Quotes prove what you are saying is true. If they can be ‘proven’ from the text, your answer is correct. So go for it, big time, to answer the question or complete the task. The trick is to write this and add key words in from the transcript. They are your “Evidence” required in the essay to gain full marks.

Then there is a short section about the ‘language features’ such as ‘fillers’ and the effect they have on the speaker and the audience; this is where I would write in detail for this is where the points are to be had. That is where you can really go to town on the use of pauses (.) and explain how he is thinking the words before he is saying them, how he is being careful so as not to wander off the track of the story. It could also suggest that in the Green Room, the room where the television crew prepare the guests, there is usually a lot of alcohol and Mr Winston may have had a few, so the pauses may be commensurate with drunkenness.

The word counts given are a guesstimate for the writer, but they are also useful. If you was to go for the throat of number 1 on these sheets, you could avoid numbers 2, 3 and 4, or write a lot on 1, but then try to squeeze 2, 3 and 4 in at the end. Each one needs to be of roughly equal length. The suggestion is a 1200 word assessment that has to be hand written in controlled style in a period of 80 minutes.

Good luck with that one!