UCCI Course Description

Communication by Design: English and Media Design

Overview Course Content Course Materials
Length of Course
Full Year (2 semesters; 3 trimesters; 4 quarters)
Subject Area - Discipline
English (B) - English
UC Honors Designation
CTE Sector
Arts, Media, and Entertainment
CTE Pathway
Design, Visual, and Media Arts
Grade Level(s)
11 - 12
At least one year of college-preparatory English


Communication by Design integrates English with Visual Design and Media Arts by giving students the ability to communicate to different audiences in a variety of text formats as it applies to analog media, digital media, and real-world digital representations. Through repeated assignments and strategies, students develop and reinforce academic and industry-related foundational concepts and skills such as website construction, document specific formatting, career connections, analytical and informative writing and collaboration. Using effective speaking and listening skills, students convey a variety of messages both informative and persuasive, demonstrate mastery of visual representation of information, and conduct interviews with community and industry professionals as well as prepare for career based interviews.  Analytical essays incorporate rhetorical strategies to develop persuasive/arguments and claims in both written and visual representations. Students deliver clear, organized presentation specific to the concept of each unit and leading to the Culminating Project at the end of the year. Students end the course with a choice of projects which expand on the performance task of one of the units. They begin with the basic product of the unit performance task; increase its sophistication, depth, and professionalism.

Recursive Assignments

Website: Students will begin with basic website design, add to this website as they learn new skills, and finish with a complex website that houses the student work as a portfolio.  This portfolio will show students’ growth in both written and visual communication as well as industry design.

Formatting: Students learn how to apply correct formatting to different types of  media according to what is appropriate for specific audiences.

Speaking/Listening Skills: Students continuously acquire and determine how to apply appropriate verbal communication skills. They will become proficient in multimedia presentations for a variety of audiences and purposes.

Vocabulary: Students continuously acquire and determine when to apply vocabulary for both CTE and ELA content areas.

Career: Students research careers to gain an understanding of what those careers look like in the “real world” including the prerequisite skills as well as those required to be successful, work environment, pay scale, job availability and the rapidly evolving workplace.

Course Content

Unit 1 : All Things Story - Narrative

Unit 1 Description

In this first unit of Communication by Design, students are immersed into narratives through a variety of assignments which lay the groundwork for the creative tasks students will be required to complete throughout the course. Students read and analyze fictional narratives in American literature, differentiating and dissecting the essential components of a narrative (setting, plot, themes, literary devices, and nuances). Because the ability to conduct effective research is vital to student success in this course, students begin developing their research skills in this unit by seeking both primary and secondary sources in addressing the process of producing a children’s book or digital comic book. In creating an analog storyboard, students will be introduced to the digital standards for design including layout, formatting, space and proportion. At the end of the unit, students transition to creating a digital storyboard incorporating the essential elements of a complete narrative and incorporating the continued instruction of digital layout, creativity of illustrations, character design, usage of space, and sense of movement. Students learn to use a web template to begin an archive of assignments throughout the course. The archive will be personally designed by the student to add a sense of “character” to the presentation of their information and work product. The research skills learned and technical choices made for the setting, costumes, and cultural aspects of the film adaptation becomes a precursor for the research and writing in Unit 3.

Assignment 1: From My Perspective

After reading and examining a wide variety of short stories from American authors, students analyze the development of the narratives, focusing on how setting affects the plot, the effect of literary devices, and how themes and nuances present themselves in the text.  This assignment serves as the first building block in students’ ability to analyze unique features of a text, a requirement in each unit of the course. Students write a summary of each story focusing on one of the following: the effect of setting, literary devices, or themes and nuances. The writing explains the organization and structure of the story and the resolution of the conflict. Writing demonstrates command of conventions through the use of revision to strengthen coherence, style, and diction.

Assignment 2:  Researching the Professionals  (Creators of Children’s Books)

Using documentaries and internet research, students use primary and secondary sources to research the creative process of a variety of authors, such as authors of children’s books or comic books/graphic novels. Research has an integral role throughout course; this assignment serves as an introduction to research for students, as well as reinforces the literary analysis skills assignment 1 addressed by having students research the inception of an author’s creative process and their decision-making . Students write a 3-4 page expository paper explaining the process these authors use, citing text-based evidence to justify their findings and revelations about the specific elements of creativity, craftsmanship, and content processes required for producing a children’s book or a digital comic book/graphic novel.

Assignment 3:   Storyboarding Like the Pros  (Creating my first storyboard draft)

Using the research paper completed in assignment 2 (going through the creative process)and  incorporating concepts from assignment 1(a meaningful setting, literary devices, and a theme) students produce a 4-scene analog storyboard. Aesthetically, the storyboard illustrates perspective, layout, and composition skills in an analog environment.  Students translate their analog product into a digital storyboard incorporating digital standards of design, such as layout, formatting, a sense of proportion and space, and emphasis.

Assignment 4: Basically Speaking

Using a basic template such as Google Apps, provided by the instructor, each student creates a website. Students learn to log in to their website, personalize it, add content, create links and add images.  Students create separate pages and links to unit assignments to begin building their portfolio website - a recurring assignment throughout the course as students upload various assignments and build a more sophisticated website.

Unit 2 : Know Thyself - A Character Study

Building on the introduction to research in the first unit, students research the music, visual, and performing arts of the Shakespearean era. Students compare and contrast Shakespeare’s plays with contemporary versions using research skills.  Students organize research, prioritize facts, create a website using skills from Unit 1 that incorporate their research, and critique online character journals for effectiveness. Students analyze a play by Shakespeare, such as Macbeth, Othello, Hamlet, etc. focusing on character development. Students develop introductory camera and editing skills in order to produce a film adaptation of a scene from the play.

Assignment 1: Character Study and Critique

Following the study of narratives in Unit 1, students expand their scope of literary analysis by reading a play by Shakespeare. Students select a complex character from the play and write 7-10 online journal entries that trace the character’s development over the course of the play. Journal writing includes how the setting(s) impact the character, literary devices used in the play, and how the particular character contributes to the emerging themes of the play . Building on these features of Unit 1 (assignments 1 and 3), students’ writing focuses on their selected character’s interactions with other characters, their decisions, and how these choices affect the final outcome of the play.  To prepare students for more complex critique tasks in future units, students analyze and evaluate other students’ online character journals, then revise their journals for based on peer feedback.

Assignment 2: Characters Then and Now

Students extend their analysis of narratives and character by identifying a modern day persona whose life parallels the students’ selected character (from assignment 1). Using software such as Powerpoint, Prezi, Word, etc., students create a slideshow that compares and contrasts the modern-day persona and Shakespeare’s character. Students present  findings to an audience of peers.

Assignment 3: Modern Version Video  

Through note-taking, discussion, and previous character analysis, students compare and contrast the portrayal of their character (from assignments 1 and 2) to a modern film adaptation of the play (for example, Macbeth by Shakespeare and the film Throne of Blood). Students write a 3-page analytical essay identifying the necessary steps for adapting one of Shakespeare’s characters to a modern context (for example, translation of Elizabethan language to a modern English dialect, identifying thematic and cultural connections). Students write a one-scene script adapting a scene from the selected work read, set in an equivalent film genre. Students develop video skills, such as camera operation, shot composition, sound and editing, to shoot the reinterpreted scene.

Unit 3 : Putting It Into Perspective - Research

In Unit 3, students build on their previous work using internet and primary source material in a variety of new ways. Students learn to evaluate software choices, considering which software tool is appropriate to the current task, and build persuasive skills in a 2-page proposal defending their software selection. Students learn to “troubleshoot” complex technical directions in a series of research-based technical support forum posts. These tasks build audience awareness, and proficiency in informative technical writing and appropriate use of supporting graphics. Students create an annotated bibliography, evaluate and corroborate source information, and use this research as the basis for writing their own 10-12 page technical manual for using a software application such as Prezi or other visual presentation software.

Assignment 1: Which Software is the Best for Me?

Shifting from reading and writing expository literary analysis, in Unit 3 students read,  follow and critically analyze technical directions relating to the download and installation of a variety of website applications to further develop analytical reading and writing skills. Students work in groups to evaluate and conclude which software would be most appropriate for upgrading their website. Students write a 2 page proposal for their software selection and explain how it will benefit their website.

Assignment 2: Tech Support Forum

To develop audience awareness for technical writing, develop research skills, and to practice writing informative/explanatory texts conveying complex ideas and information, students create a classwide technical support troubleshooting/instructional blog to deconstruct and provide user support for a challenging technical manual (for example, the support manual for the open-source application Blender). Throughout this assignment, students will be citing textual evidence to support their analysis of the texts used, inferences drawn from the texts, and to determine where the texts leave matters uncertain. In the initial forum post, students identify the task in the manual they find most “difficult”/confusing, and explain why they find this section of the manual challenging. For the second forum post, students develop and describe a research-based strategy to make this task more accessible. Students apply this strategy, and in the third post reflect on how their knowledge and understanding of the manual and the task it describes has grown, identifying the strategy or strategies which led to new insight, including supporting graphics to illustrate key concepts. In the fourth post, students evaluate the effectiveness of their research-based strategy, and explain how they might modify their approach for future tasks of this type. This assignment asks students to integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information in order to solve the “difficulty” problem.

Assignment 3: Annotated Bibliography

As part of the research process for the technical manual assignment, students create an annotated bibliography (2-3 pages) of sources relating to the operation of digital presentation software such as Prezi. This assignment will give students an opportunity to practice the skill of gathering relevant information from multiple authoritative sources, and to practice citation skills and avoiding over-reliance on any one source. Students list the bibliographic citation for each source, summarize the key features of the source which are relevant to their writing task, and evaluate the credibility, accuracy, reasonableness, and support (C.A.R.S.) features of each source using a source analysis tool such as the C.A.R.S. checklist.

Assignment 4: Corroborating Evidence from Sources

In a 3-5 page essay, students corroborate the information found in two or more of the sources listed in their annotated bibliographies by comparing and contrasting the structure of and information provided by the sources, and evaluating the features and information the various sources have chosen to omit and include. In this assignment, students will be broadening their inquiry and assessing the strengths and limitations of sources relevant to the task at hand.

Unit 4 : WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) - Visual Language

Students learn how visual imagery and descriptive language are used in both fiction and nonfiction texts and media. Students analyze existing literature and film for visual and contextual attributes called the “8 C’s”: character, conflict, conditions, context, crutch, configuration, and catharsis. Students hone their own descriptive writing abilities in a peer activity in which they test the adage “a picture is worth 1,000 words.” Using peer annotation, students respond to peers’ film treatment drafts with a written critique, and revise their own drafts based on peer feedback.  Students develop their persuasive skills in the performance task by composing an industry-standard film “pitch” presented to the class and, if possible, industry/post secondary experts. This proposal is integral to projects in Unit 7 and is complete with synopsis, narrative treatment, and aesthetic values such as visual attribution, sound components and character interaction. The performance task includes a single-scene script sample and production placard. Students critique the proposals and judge successful film treatments for use in the Unit 7 collaboration.

Assignment 1: The 8 C’s

Shifting from reading and writing predominantly works of  fiction and analysis of narrative elements and plot structure, students analyze visual language in film and/or literature. Working in small groups, each group having chosen a different short story or film based on a list of films that are strong in visual language (for example The Red Balloon, Fritz Lang’s Metropolis) provided by the instructor, students identify the 8 C’s as outlined in The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Independent Filmmaking: character, conflict, conduct, conditions, context, crutch, configuration, and catharsis. Each group creates a brief digital presentation, such as a Prezi, on the 8 C’s in their text, which they orally present to the class. Working individually, students each write 2-3 pages identifying the 8 C’s in a film of their own choice, writing a short paragraph for each of the 8 C’s, synthesizing information from the film as needed to illustrate their identification of each of the 8 C’s with concrete examples of these textual features.

Assignment 2: Rich Description (A Picture’s Worth A Thousand Words)

Each student is given a still image taken from from a film, and should describe the image in an in-class writing assignment (about 500 words); students write a rich narrative description - focusing on concrete visual detail and imagery. Students work in pairs, exchange descriptions and draw the visual based on the visual detail included. Students compare their images with the drawing their partner created based on the written description, and discuss where each description was successful or unsuccessful in conveying key visual aesthetic or composition information from Units 1-3.

Assignment 3: Film Treatment Drafts and Peer Annotation

Because of previous assignments that focused on narrative and descriptive writing, students are prepared to conceptualize a film idea, then draft a brief narrative of one scene of the film (the film treatment). Working in pairs or small groups, peers read and annotate one anothers’ film treatments using digital feedback tools such as Google Docs. Each student provides feedback for their peer, making revision suggestions for strengthening the descriptive visual language of the treatment, and for improving the overall organization and formatting of the film treatment to ensure that it follows industry guidelines. The comments take the form of both margin notes and a paragraph highlighting key areas of concern and offering suggestions for revision. Having received peer feedback from one or more classmates, each student develops a 2-page plan of action for addressing peer feedback in revision.

Unit 5 : “Re-Visioning” - Critique

Critically evaluating literature and digital media is crucial to a student’s ability to revise and improve work; in this unit, students learn about the language of critique and how and when it should be used. Students adapt and modify the instructor-provided template for website design and drafting biographical content to add to their own personal website, which they critique in a peer review session before revising and making their website public. Using The Non-Designers Design Book, students review ideas and develop techniques to give their website the appropriate impact. To continue developing their discipline-specific vocabulary, students create criticism vocabulary “word clouds.” Students further develop their understanding of criticism by summarizing and responding to, and then comparing and contrasting, pieces of literary and film criticism. To demonstrate their knowledge of the concepts and vocabulary of criticism,and prepare them for the development of argument in the next unit, students end the unit by writing a 3-5 page critique on a film adaptation of a piece of literature read by the class such as The Taming of the Shrew and 10 Things I Hate About You and add their persuasive critique/comparison to their improved website.

Assignment 1: Adapt Template and Add Content

Revision and production are recurring assignments throughout the course; building on these concepts and providing an opportunity to continue developing these skills, students  adapt the template for website design provided by the instructor in Units 1 and 4, and use this adapted template to add content to their personal website. Students write a narrative introducing themselves and their website to the world. This narrative, which includes graphic illustrations, communicates students’ creative and literary influences, and elaborates their passions. Using skills developed throughout the course, students continue building their website, creating pages to display their work from previous units. Each new addition will feature an expository piece of writing (roughly 200-400 words) explaining the creative process for each assignment, identifying key creative and artistic influences. Students pair share the draft of their website, effectively participating in collaborative discussions with peers about their creative and technical choices. Students use peer feedback to revise their website and content before making the site publicly viewable.

Assignment 2: Vocabulary of Criticism Wordle

Using a selection of  film criticism drawn from anthologies of reviews by professional critics, students generate word clouds with an online word cloud application such as Wordle. Using the word clouds they have created, students identify key recurring terms and concepts in the texts. Students craft definitions of key recurring terms and concepts and compile them in a collaborative online document such as a wiki or Google Doc. Students collaborate with peers on at least three thoroughly articulated definitions.

Assignment 3: Summary/Response for Film and Literary Criticism

Each student writes two 2-page summary/responses: one for each of two different pieces of film criticism written by different professional critics (such as Pauline Kael and Roger Ebert) about the same film; in the “response” section of the assignment, students evaluate the validity of each author’s criticism and analysis of the film. Students then write a 3-page essay comparing and contrasting the two pieces of criticism they have read; specifically, students compare and contrast the ways in which the authors construct and support arguments and analysis.

Unit 6 : Make It Happen - Make It Real - The Art of Persuasion

In this unit, students’ persuasive techniques continue to evolve from the Unit 4 assessment as they complete an in-depth study of the art of persuasion. Students read a variety of American essayists from the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries and dissect the rhetoric and arguments of those essays. Students also analyze political cartoons from the 20th and 21st centuries. Students write an analytical essay focusing on a specific piece of nonfiction persuasion. Students transition from analyzing traditional formatting and techniques found in print media to those in web-based periodicals. This includes evaluating the use and placement of titles, captions, and images, and critiquing how these tools are used in coordination with the written text to make effective and persuasive claims. Students evaluate political cartoons from two perspectives of print and digital media, citing both rhetorical themes and the delivery of a compelling point of view in addition to analyzing the cartoons’ design proportion, composition, positive and negative space. In this unit, students are formally assessed in the mastery of the skills from Units 1 - 5 by creating a digital collage that advocates or persuades a perspective from American history. As a result of this assessment, students are prepared to investigate the differences between careers in digital and print media.

Assignment 1:  Graph It (Students will create Graphic Diagrams to trace an argument)

To continue to develop the depth and breadth of readings in the course, students read essays, rhetorical pieces, and foundational U.S. documents from 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, investigating the use of rhetorical devices, premises, and reasoning. Using a graphic representation, students map the development of how those elements move the argument forward. The graphic representation must include shape manipulation, text manipulation, graphic editing, and image insertion.

Assignment 2:  Informative Essay (2-4 page essay)

Using one of the texts and graphic representations from assignment one, students write a 2-4 page informative essay summarizing the topic including the significant/relevant facts, the use of persuasive techniques, and evaluating the effectiveness of the argument.  This assignment is a summative exercise of the key concepts taught in assignment 1.

Assignment 3: Extra Extra, Read All About It! (3-5 page essay)

Students incorporate the analysis and explanation of rhetorical devices in previous assignments in order to analyze a series of articles from recent issues of news periodicals that make and support a claim. Students select 1 piece of longform journalism (a lengthy piece of in-depth reporting) and write a 3-5 page rhetorical analysis of how the writer’s style, rhetorical choices, choice of supporting details, diction, and how the author or publisher’s layout choices contribute to the effectiveness of the piece.  

Assignment 4: Are all Cartoons Really Funny? (2-4 page essay)

Students analyze a series of political cartoons from 20th and 21st century primary and secondary sources. Students write a 2-4 page expository summary that explains the political topic at hand and analyzes the validity of the claim, the artist’s diction, and image choices. Additionally, students evaluate the balance of the composition, proportion (in regards to parody or satire), positive and negative space, and line.

Assignment 5: Making Headlines of My Own (500-750 words)

Students create and design a piece of in-depth persuasive journalism, based on teacher generated current events. The piece will be of an appropriate length depending on the medium (500- 750 words). The writing supports the writer’s central idea (thesis) and further develops the claim with well-constructed paragraphs, effective organization, and an awareness of the intended audience. Students use a desktop publishing program (such as Scribus.net or InDesign) to lay out the article, including titles, captions, and photos where appropriate.

Unit 7 : Making It Work - Career

Building on research and technical skills from previous units, students investigate various industry and technical careers in design, media, and visual arts. Students research these careers, acquire techniques for effective interviewing, develop new research skills, and combine information and resources they have collected in pages linked to the class web site. Students select a film treatment to turn into a promotional campaign based on the film treatment “pitch” from Unit 4. Using their web design skills, student groups will develop a web site for the film. Using their narrative, persuasive, and editing skills, students shoot and edit a trailer for the film. Students also learn marketing skills by creating both a podcast and a social media campaign, which will be integrated into a web-based promotional campaign.

Assignment 1: Create a Career Jobs “Binder”

Students choose 5 jobs from a teacher-provided list of AME Digital Media Careers and investigate  job particulars such as salary, time, duties and availability. Based on this research, students develop a written career plan - sequencing the  educational and industry experience necessary to obtain a job in their given area. Students add career plans as linked pages to the class website, creating a virtual career resource “binder.”

Assignment 2: Industry Interview Podcast

Students create a 1-page interview guide and test interview techniques on their peers in preparation for an industry interview; students revise interview guides based on peer feedback. Using the interview guide, interview community industry experts in radio, video production, film or graphic/web design and use  sound editing software (such as Audacity) to record and edit the interview to create a podcast. Students post the podcast on the class website, and write a 100-word promotional blurb to promote the interviewee, highlighting in writing the unexpected and interesting moments from the interview.

Assignment 3: Resumé and Interview

Students prepare a one-page resumé outlining their writing/multimedia experience to apply for a role in the film promotion collaboration in the unit assessment. Students submit their resumé to the director/producer and interview for their respective positions in the “production company.”

Course Materials

Primary Texts:

Title: The Complete Persepolis
Edition: 1st
Publication Date: (October 30, 2007)
Publisher: Pantheon; 1 edition
Author(s): Marjane Satrapi
URL Resource(s): amazon.com
Usage: Unit 1 - Assignment 1 Primary Text No Read in entirety or near entirety

Title: Latino USA a Cartoon
Edition: First Trade Paper Edition edition
Publication Date: (April 3, 2012)
Publisher: Basic Books
Author(s): Iian Stevens
URL Resource(s): amazon.com
Usage: Unit 1 - Assignment 1 Primary Text No Read needed chapters

Title: District Adopted ELA Anthology
Publication Date:
URL Resource(s):
Usage: Primary Text Read in entirety or near entirety

Title: District Adopted CTE Multimedia textbook
Publication Date
URL Resource(s):
Usage:Unit Primary Text Yes Read in entirety or near entirety

Title: District Adopted ELA grade 11 textbook
Publication Date
URL Resource(s):
Usage:Unit Primary Text Yes Read in entirety or near entirety

Title: The Complete Idiot's Guide To Independent Filmmaking
Edition: 1st
Publication Date 2005
Publisher: Penguin
Author(s): Joe Steiff
URL Resource(s): amazon.com
Usage:Unit 4 Assignment 1 Primary Text Yes Read in entirety or near entirety

Supplemental Instructional Materials:

Title: Storyboards: Motion in Art, Third Edition [Paperback]
Edition: 3rd
Publication Date: Oct. 11, 2006
Publisher” Focal Press
Author(s): Mark Simon
URL resources: Amazon.com
Usage - Assignment 3 Unit # 1
Primary Text: No
Read entirely or near entirety: Instructor must cover the beginning chapters of “Develop and Improve your boards.

Title: The Art of the Storyboard: Storyboarding for Film, TV, and Animation [Paperback
Publication Date:December 21, 1998
Publisher”: Focal Press
Author(s): John Hart
URL resources: Amazon.com
Usage - Assignment 3 Unit # 1
Do not read entirety: Just read the section on the beginning of storyboarding for animation. Then you can use your own judgement to pick and choose certain lessons that will be useful.

URL Resource(s):Scribus website
On these sites there are viewable tutorials to help instructors learn the basics. There are also textbooks on In-Design below.
Usage: Unit 1 & 3 - Assignment 1 Primary Text No Read in entirety or near entirety

Title: Filmmaking for Teens: Pulling Off Your Shorts
Edition: 2nd
Publication Date: February 1, 2010
Publisher: Michael Wiese Productions
Author(s): Troy Lanier and Clay Nichols
URL Resource(s):amazon.com
Usage: Unit 7 - Assignment 5 Primary Text NO Read in entirety or near entirety

Title: Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art
Edition: 2nd
Publication Date:April 27, 1994
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Author(s): Scott McCloud
URL Resource(s): amazon.com
Usage: Unit 5 - Assignment 4 Primary Text NO Read in entirety or near entirety

Title: The Oxford Shakespeare: The Complete Works
Edition: 2nd
Publication Date: August 1, 2005
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Author(s): Stanley Wells
URL Resource(s): amazon.com
Usage:Unit 2 Primary Text NO Read in entirety or near entirety

Title : The Complete Idiot's Guide To Independent Filmmaking
Edition: 1st
Publication Date:July 19, 2004
Publisher: Penguin, 2005
Author(s): Josef Steiff
URL Resource(s) :amazon.com
Usage: Unit 5 Primary Text: NO Read specific units.

Title : Engaging Film Criticism: Film History and Contemporary American Cinema
Edition: 1st
Publication Date:July 19, 2004
Publisher: Peter Lang Publishing
Author(s): Walter Metz
URL Resource(s) :amazon.com
Usage: Unit 5 Primary Text: NO Read in entirety or near entirety

Title : Are all Cartoons Really Funny?
Edition: 1st
Publication Date:July 19, 2004
Publisher: Peter Lang Publishing
Author(s): Walter Metz
URL Resource(s) :amazon.com
Usage: Unit 5 Primary Text: NO Read in entirety or near entirety

Title : The Red Balloon
Publication Date:1956
Author(s): Albert Lamorisse
URL Resource(s) :amazon.com
Usage: Unit 4 Primary Text: NO Read in entirety or near entirety

Title : The Complete Metropolis
Publication Date:1926
Publisher: Kino International
Author(s): Fritz Lang
URL Resource(s) :amazon.com
Usage: Unit 4 Primary Text: NO Read in entirety or near entirety

Students will be performing research and completing tasks using the internet.  

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