UCCI Course Description

Designing the American Dream: English 11 and Media Arts

Overview Course Content Course Materials Related Resources
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)
Successful completion of English 10 or equivalent


Students analyze a diverse collection of American voices in literature and film as they relate to manifestations of “The American Dream” across time, regions, and cultures. Students think critically about how depictions of “The American Dream” have evolved and been perpetuated by literature and the media, and use this understanding to create textual and visual responses, which reflect a deeper understanding and personal perspective on “The American Dream.” Students integrate this extensive literary knowledge with a mastery of video production technical skills. Throughout the course, students develop as critical thinkers, writers, and filmmakers in the analysis and design of their own American Dreams.

Recurring Assignment: Daily Journal Writing

Each class begins with a journal write that engages students’ perspectives, background knowledge, and personal relevance to the topics to be discussed that day. Students write these in their “reflection log,” writing reflections on the processes taken in each project, discuss how their concept of the American Dream changes throughout lessons and units, and write self-assessments of their work as projects are completed.

Course Content

Unit 1 : Identity, Culture and The American Dream

Unit 1 Description

Essential Question: “How is identity affected by the fundamental values of the American Dream and in what ways can this construction be represented through images?”

Through an examination of various cultural symbols -- textual and visual -- students collaboratively analyze the emergent concept of the American Dream and its expression in the literary and visual arts. Students gain foundational skills in writing, visual design, and video-production, enabling them to produce simple visual narratives. Through these original narratives, students communicate a personal understanding of how our cultural identities are tied to ever-changing conceptions of the American Dream.

“b” - English Academic Topics:

CTE - Video Production Topics:

Students consider the course’s broader themes and generative questions (see unit titles / Essential Questions).

Introduction to the syllabus, which includes: the course’s ELA learning outcomes, the key integrated assignments, and methods and standards of student assessment (i.e. rubrics, examples of model student work).

Present the Unit 1 Essential Question (through an ELA lens).

By reading, discussing, and writing about texts (varied by genre, era, and ethnic tradition), students learn how authors strategically use narrative structures such as: plot (temporal sequencing) setting, characterization (especially the use of dialogue), narrative voice, mood, and tone.

Consider the relationship between text and images, especially with regard to denotation, connotation, imagery (figurative language), motif, etc. -- those literary elements that create mood and meaning.

For context, students study the format of a Wintercount, a nonlinear Native American storytelling approach that combines spoken word and visual images.

Optional supplemental integrated activity: students may optionally film their own dramatizations of literary scenes from the class readings. (Students may recreate scenes exactly, or they may invent new plot twists).

Students consider the range of modes of storytelling that are employed throughout the course.

Introduction to the syllabus, which includes: the course’s CTE learning outcomes, the key integrated assignments, and methods and standards of student assessment (i.e. rubrics, and examples of model student work).

Present the Unit 1 Essential Question (through a CTE lens).

By viewing and discussing photographs and silent films, students study principles of design and visual storytelling (especially the elements of composition).

Analyze various examples of film scripts, as context for the Wintercount project, a key integrated assessment.

Introduction to script writing for the “short script” assignment.

Learn the proper and safe use of video production equipment and practice using technical vocabulary specific to the field.

Learn about various production roles and rotate roles throughout the course until each student has performed each role at least once:

  • Screenwriter (aligned with ELA content-and-skill standards)
  • Director
  • Producer
  • Videographer/Director of Photography (DP)
  • Grip (Lighting)
  • Sound Engineer
  • Editor (Post-Production)

Wintercount Integrated Project:

Part 1 - Students each create their own Wintercount(modifications suggested in supplemental materials) made from still images that depict their self-image. Knowledge skills taught: 1. Image composition, 2. Elements of design, 3. Principles of design

Part 2 - Wintercount Tale: Students individually write a one-page story (linear or nonlinear) about his/her identity based upon the images in his/her Wintercount. Students then choose 5-10 words with strong connotative power which illustrate aspects of their Wintercount. They weave these words into the second draft of their tales, adding tone and mood to the story.

Part 3 - Wintercount Script: In groups of 3-4, students create a group Wintercount script through joining several images and finding common themes and ties across their individual identities. The script tells the story of how the individual characters come together, or new characters are created based on the combination of images and individual identities. The script will be 3-4 pages long and show how the different characters/identities interact and illustrate the diversity and synthesis of the American Dream, which will then be used to create a video.

  • Part 3A - Group Reflection: As a group, students look at the combined images and discuss the following question, writing one page of bullet points which discusses the connections between individual stories. Question: What stories are told about the American Dream through the combination of individual identities as represented in text and images?

  • Part 3B : Create a group narrative, which analyzes the way in which identity is constructed individually and through interactions with others. Write the script of this narrative (including characters, dialogue, plot, and setting) to show how all the individual voices/characters help to shape the American Dream, while the notion of the American Dream also helps to shape these individual lives.

Part 4 - Wintercount Film: Three element video (in the “cinema sport” or “Iron Man” video-style) is filmed, edited, and produced. In the same groups, students create a 2-minute, three-five scene, video that tells the visual story of their Wintercount Scripts. Students storyboard their scripts and are taught how three distinct visual elements can be used to communicate a particular mood / tone: choice of subject, composition (especially camera angle), and color. After they film the ‘Wintercount’ project, groups exchange films with classmates, for peer review.

The American Dream Research Paper: Students begin their search with the Library of Congress Lesson Plans website and subsequently find a minimum of five other sources. They define the American Dream, where this notion originates, its various manifestations and how it has developed across American History, regions, and cultures. They write a 3-4 page research report in MLA format.

Unit 2 : Freedom and Independence

Essential Question: “How does the story of the struggle for freedom and independence unfold, and how is this unfolding depicted through images?”

In unit two, students explore the tension between individual freedom and social responsibility by analyzing performance-based literature, ranging from traditional speeches and plays to non-traditional storyboards and graphic novels. Students examine how the choice of media, style, and point-of-view determine the content, meaning, and relative “truth” of a narrative, whether fictional or non-fiction. To further hone their visual storytelling abilities, students continue to collaboratively develop industry-specific skills -- shot-and-scene composition, video editing -- in support of creative video productions.

“b” - English Academic Topics:

CTE - Video Production Topics:

Consider the Unit Essential Question and the ways in which works of American literature portray the previous generations’ struggle with issues of freedom and independence:

Read a variety of historic texts through which Americans have articulated the human needs and rights to freedom, and look at language and rhetorical strategies used by writers such as Thomas Jefferson and Frederick Douglass to determine how these writers made convincing arguments during their time.

Then, evaluate modern and contemporary arguments for freedom and independence through a variety of storytelling genres: novel, short story, poetry, graphic novel and film, comparing and contrasting the imagery, use of language, and rhetorical strategy.

What is freedom? How do individuals define freedom? How do individuals express their desire for freedom?

Students discuss the relationship between speaker and audience and the rhetorical strategies used. Students evaluate the imagery used by writers and artists from divergent backgrounds as they articulate their desire for freedom. The analysis of stylistic choice provides students with a foundation for making their own stylistic choices in creative projects.

What is artistic freedom? How does working with others affect the experience of artistic freedom?

Students take a previously written story, and work in teams to develop short screenplays that explore scenes from that work. These scenes will be recombined to create a whole short film. Students reflect upon the relationship between individual freedom and group production in a reflective essay.

Part I- Storyboard

Consider the Unit Essential Question, as it relates to proper storyboard technique.

Understand how to communicate with -- and persuade -- a target audience with a short 1-3 minute video about personal struggle (integrate ELA rhetorical studies).

Effective application of camera angles and various shot compositions for emphasis and effect in storytelling.

Develop a storyboard.

Shot planning.

Students develop proper protocol for peer evaluation during the review and revision of storyboards.

Introduction to computer based non-linear digital video editing applications and practices. (Apple Final Cut, Adobe Premier, Sony Vegas).

Part II- Scene Construction

Introduction to screenwriting: groups construct a 2-3 page screenplay of a segment of a short story (e.g. The Story of an Hour).

Learn proper screenplay format that includes believable dialog.

Create a corresponding storyboard using various shot compositions for emphasis and effect in storytelling.

Develop a production plan using storyboards/shot plans, and a production schedule to guide the production work.

Review and revision between teams occur before production begins and during editing.

Use of transitions and control of audio in digital video editing.

A group’s video segments are put together with the other teams’ segments to complete a video version of the story.

Personal Declaration of Independence: Students write a 1-2 page personal reflection based on the reading of the Declaration of Independence answering the question: Do I feel free? They must discuss examples from their lives as they relate to the ideals set forth by the Declaration of Independence.

Artistic Freedom Reflective Analysis: In a 2-3 page written reflection, after reading the required unit readings, students answer the question: How does telling someone else’s story change artistic freedom and independence, and the overall story?

Alternate Ending: Students write a 2 page alternate ending to a story read in class, which they develop into a storyboard. Students examine resolution in narrative and the effects on the audience in the way the ending is written -- what ideas are you leaving the audience with to ponder and how effectively have your made your point and resolved your conflict?

Storyboard Project: In groups, develop a storyboard for an alternative ending to an existing story read in the unit, then provide to another group to produce. A storyboard of the first part of the story will be demonstrated to the class to illustrate proper storyboard techniques. Review and revision will occur between teams before production for clarification on interpretation of the other teams storyboard. Knowledge skills: 1. Proper storyboard techniques, 2. Identify and use various shot compositions to tell story (camera direction, angle, movement, aesthetics, visual narrative), 3. Develop proper protocol for peer evaluation during the review and revision.

Unit 3 : Family and Home

Essential Question: “Where does the American Dream reside, and what role does ‘family’ play in achieving the ‘Dream’? How are the American norms of ‘family’ and ‘home’ depicted through images?”

Students analyze contrasting images of American families across time and cultures, as portrayed by canonical short-form literature and cinema. Students write a short screenplay, either original or adapted from a course text, in response to the theme of ‘family’ or ‘home.’ Students conclude the unit developing the screenplay into a short film.

“b” - English Academic Topics:

CTE - Video Production Topics:

From where do we derive our notions of family, home, the familiar?

Through reading, writing, and discussion, students analyze the familial values of each American time period (those accepted by American culture as “norm”).

How much of a role do our own families play in shaping who we become?

In both writing and discussion, students reflect on their own families, and the values they have adopted as the foundation of their American Dream. They learn about their family members’ own “American Dreams” through research and interviews, and thus come to a broader perspective on their own familial history and how this history informs their own dreams and their ability to achieve these dreams.

Original Story

Students analyze the notion of the “ideal family” as portrayed across media history, and analyze the role that different media (radio, TV, advertising, the Internet) play in shaping popular culture, historical gender roles, and family values of the zeitgeist.

Students work in teams to develop an original screenplay concept about the significance of family and home.

Ideas are presented for review &  revision.

Teams write a 6-8 page screenplay, plan, and implement their production project using frequent daily reviews of footage for review and revision.

Digital editing to include creative title, credits, soundtrack, and production tag that indicates the class, school, and year the video was made.

Peer review and revision of final draft before outputting.

Dialogue Construction: Students take a previously written 1-2 page short story and write an adaptation of that story into a short play to be used in their screenplays. There may be no narration, only dialogue.

Analytical Narrative: Students write a 4-5 page narrative about their own family, which must include dialogue and explore how a member of their family is pursuing a dream. Students include information recorded from the interviews they conducted with 2 family members from 2 different generations. Students also compare and contrast their own family with representations of family in film and literature. Students analyze the relationship between their own families and notions of the ideal family, as reflected in "The American Dream."

Original Story Project: In groups, students create an original idea about the significance of family and home, and write a 6-8 page screenplay and present to the class. Teams must develop the concept for their original idea. This is presented to the class for review and revision. Teams must plan their production, implementing the use of script writing, storyboard/shot plans, and production schedule. Teams produce the 1-2 minute video using various shot compositions for emphasis and effect in storytelling. Final video is edited to include a creative title, credits, and production tag that indicates the class, school, and year the video was made. Peer review informs revision of final draft.

Unit 4 : Individualism, Community and Justice

Essential Question: “How is the American Dream written -- how is it written by the individual, and how is it written by the community? How do images portray the relationship between the individual and the community?”

Students research, analyze, and evaluate the evolution of American thought about social responsibility, and the 20th and 21st Century perceptions of the relationship between civics, society, and the individual. In the first part of the unit, an emphasis is placed on the study of political speeches and works of nonfiction in the form of print, broadcast, and online media. Students go on to conduct independent research to uncover the current political and social climate of their own communities, and respond by creating a public service announcement (PSA) that addresses a local need or social issue and reflects a personal perspective. In support of this goal, students develop a design strategy for using font families, anatomy of type, kerning, leading, and line weight.

“b” - English Academic Topics:

CTE - Video Production Topics:

Who am I as an individual? What is the ideal image presented by the media and literature around me and how does this media affect my American dream? What is my own American Dream?

Writing, discussing, reflecting on, and speaking about themselves and their roles in their community.

Reading contemporary works about individuality vs conformity, expectations, and the ideal image in American culture.

Looking at advertising, past and present to analyze the presentation and development of the American Dream and its development -- reflection on how this has affected the individual.

How does the American notion of “justice” bridge the tension between individuality and community identity?

While reading a variety of historic texts where Americans introduced new ideas to the American landscape, and persuaded others to think outside the box, be an individual, and to participate in their democratic civic duties by standing up for what they believe in, we will look at language and persuasive rhetorical strategies used by writers (e.g. Henry David Thoreau,Martin Luther King) and determine how these writers were successful in inspiring others to action with their words, becoming the catalyst for important changes in the political and social American way of life.

Introduction to graphic design, typography, and video animation

Research the elements and history of typography and design (e.g. John Gill, Jan Tschichold, Helvetica video documentary).

Write an essay and produce a podcast on a chosen typographer or graphic designer (e.g. research the designer of the Nike “Swoosh” and how much she was paid).

Analyze current broadcast PSA messages related to health (smoking, asthma), financial or environmental issues to understand how content is developed for a target audience.

Teams produce 30-60 second public service announcement videos using content from speech written in ELA.

Introduction to motion graphics (using a software program such as Adobe Flash, Illustrator and After Effects) for team’s PSA logo design project.

Learn how to animate text elements (in motion, color, scaled) to produce a text- only video using an editing application (i.e. Apple’s LiveType) to be part of PSA.

Critique and analyze classmates’ productions.

Present PSA to entire school community.

ELA language can be modified to use the CTE project as part of the speech presentation. Video project could contain all or part of the speech in animation.

Business Letter: After identifying a local concern and an organization attempting to address that concern, students write letters to the organization offering to create a PSA.

Persuasive Speech Writing: Through analysis of speeches of great Americans who changed the world and the notion of the American Dream, students compose and deliver a persuasive speech attempting to mobilize others to become involved in the organization they focus on for their PSA project. The language used in their speech fuel the PSA video-project. The interviews conducted between students and community members help students to choose a position and find evidence to defend their position, and will serve as primary sources of information.

Analytical Reflection: Students view their video-taped persuasive speech and write a reflection analyzing their public speaking skills and how they present themselves, and create goals for their next public speaking performance task.

PSA Project: In collaborative production teams, students create a short video, 30-60 seconds, public service announcement related to a chosen social issue. Working as individuals, the students investigate font families, the anatomy of type, researching type design, and type designers. Students create a logo design for the public service (PSA) message with font selections, applying kerning, leading, line weight, etc. The video will ONLY contain text elements. Kinetic Text: text elements will be required to animate (motion, scale, color). Perform a public presentation including a public viewing of the PSA to the entire school community.

Unit 5 : Race, Gender, and Class

Essential Question: “What colors represent you and your American Dream, and why? How do images depict issues of race, gender, and class?”

Through analysis and evaluation of poetry and other forms of creative writing, and the study and manipulation of ambient and artificial light in photography and cinematography, students examine methods of using ‘color’ to communicate ideas and establish moods.

“b” - English Academic Topics:

CTE - Video Production Topics:

Students examine ways in which American authors of various backgrounds have expressed issues concerning gender, race, and class, and how their experiences have contributed to common conceptions of “The American Dream.”

How are issues of identity, in terms of race, gender, and class, expressed through color in text and film?

Students synthesize the two introductory units to explore color as a specific representation of identity, with a chosen emphasis on race, gender, or class.

Which color would you use to represent your personal identity and why? How is this representation related to race, gender, and class, as each is understood in “The American Dream”?

Students trace personal thoughts and experiences related to race, class, and gender in an analytical journal, and use documentation to inform the creative choices in their film project.

Introduction to color theory, advanced camera operation, camera angle, and production planning


Video camera operation

Color theory, color palettes, filtration, light modification, and visual communication of aesthetic and mood.

How is color used as a symbolic tool in film and text?

Students are exposed to examples of texts and films, which purposefully use various colors as a stylistic means of representing ideas and themes.

Camera angles (long shot, wide shot, close-up), camera movement (tilt, pan and follow) and scene composition.

Post-production color filters and chroma-key drop out (Blue/Green screen).


Plan production, implementing the use of script writing, storyboarding and shot plans, and production schedule.

Define and acquire required resources -- props, talent, and equipment.

Develop scripts emphasizing non-verbal language cues, using color and action to set the narrative.

Produce short (3-5 minute) video illustrating color affect, camera angle, and camera movement.

Class presentations; review and critique other teams’ videos. Review critiques.

Analytical Journaling and Essay: Students identify a color that represents themselves and/or their community and discuss the symbolic meaning of the color. Through daily journal writing, students document the use and application of this color.

Essay: Drawing from the observations documented in their journals, students write an essay analyzing the symbolic use of color in film making. This will fuel ideas for their own use of color in film.

Film Research and Evaluative Essay: Students evaluate the use of color in 5-7 primary sources (film and text). In a 2-3 page paper, students integrate their personal understanding of color with examples of color in text and film in order to evaluate the degree to which color successfully represents ideas and emotions.

Coloring the Content Film Project: Production teams create a film, 1-2 minutes, that uses a specific color to represent the theme and aesthetic, and discuss how this color sets meaning. Teams must plan their production, using script writing, storyboard/shot plans, and a production schedule. Student teams define and acquire required resources - props, talent, equipment. The scripts are void of spoken language, emphasizing non-verbal language cues, focusing on using color and action to set the narrative and should reflect the emotional affect represented by the color. The content of the film will be represented by ambient light, clothing, environment, and other visual cues. Films must include various shot types (pan, zoom, CU, etc.) In order to accomplish the required task, students study color, color palettes, filtration, light modification using both on-set lighting equipment (key, spot, etc.) and post-production color filters such as chroma-key drop out.

Unit 6 : Money, Consumption, and Existentialism

Essential Question: “Can you purchase the Dream? How does the American media portray the Dream as a material pursuit? How do some works of American literature treat the Dream as an existential struggle?”

Through the critical analysis of creative and persuasive literature, print ads, and television commercials, students explore how the glorification and criticism of consumption shape our contemporary values and the beliefs we hold about ourselves and the American Dream. Students respond by producing an original ‘commercial’ message, revealing a personal and informed perspective on the relationship between materialism, existentialism, and the American Dream.

“b” - English Academic Topics:

CTE - Video Production Topics:

How has the pursuit of material wealth been explored by authors and filmmakers throughout American history and to what extent do you identify with this “American Dream”?

Students analyze several texts and films, which explore money, consumption, and materialism, as well as contradictory philosophical ideas involving “The American Dream.”

Students examine their own relationship with money and consumption as they document their purchases, desires, and ideas about materialism in a daily reflective log, which is shared and used in structured discussion.

How has the American media portrayed wealth and the pursuit of wealth in the 21st century, and how has this portrayal progressed since the 19th century?

Students identify how wealth has been glorified and sold to the American public by the media, and how it has helped shape our contemporary understanding of the American Dream. Examples from film, advertisements, and commercials, inform students’ creation of a commercial, in which they will “sell” a product related to the American Dream.

Introduction to lighting and visual literacy


Study of visual literacy in the area of persuasive communication (e.g. Frontline-Merchants Of Cool).

Appropriate cinema lighting design for specific film genre (e.g. Film Noir, Documentary, Melodrama).

Inside (studio) and outside (ambient) settings to create dramatic effects.


Teams plan productions for a target audience of their choosing.

Implement the use of script writing, storyboard/shot plans, lighting plans, and production schedule to include various shot types (pan, zoom, CU, etc.).

Use of directional lighting (spot, side, broad) to manipulate contrasts and intensity, all within the context of a black and white/monochromatic.

Apply typography skill to emphasis message.

The video must have scenes both inside (using correct three-point lighting) and outside (controlling the ambient light).

Reflective Log: Students trace the role of money and consumption in their lives, in relation to readings, and evaluate the connection to philosophical ideas.

Reflective Essay: Students write a 2-3 page essay in which they reflect upon their own behavior as consumers. Using their logs as well as their readings as starting points for reflection, students articulate their own values as consumers and reflect upon the personal and social consequences of their choices.

Commercial Description and Script: Students must create persuasive characters, setting, plot, and use words with powerful connotations to sell their product. Students use persuasive techniques, logical fallacies, precise and effective dialogue.

Selling the American Dream: Students create a 30 second commercial that attempts to sell the American Dream; using the effects of lighting to sell a product, using the idea of the American Dream to also sell an image within the commercial.

Teams must:

  • Plan their production, implementing the use of script writing, storyboard/shot plans, and a production schedule.

  • Create lighting diagrams noting the placement of lighting equipment.

  • Films must include various shot types (pan, zoom, CU, etc.)

  • Commercial must include the use of directional lighting (spot, side, broad) and manipulate contrasts and intensity, all within the context of a black and white/ monochromatic. It must also reapply typography skill from previous unit.

  • The video will have scenes both inside using correct three-point lighting and outside controlling the ambient light.

Unit 7 : Status and Fame

Essential Question: “If you’re famous, have you achieved the Dream? What role do images play in perpetuating the allure of high-status and fame?”

Students explore the nature of today’s ‘celebrity culture’ by examining works of creative writing and visual art, as well historical and contemporary news articles about, and interviews with, famous and ‘everyday’ Americans alike. Students respond by producing their own video interviews that shed light on the themes of ‘status’ and ‘fame.’

“b” - English Academic Topics:

CTE - Video Production Topics:

Is fame the ultimate measure of status and at what point did this social stratification become evident?

Students examine status and fame in The Great Gatsby through their analysis of Gatsby and his relationships with other characters and societal influences.

Students analyze rhetorical strategies used to represent fame as a nuanced concept, and use this analysis to inform their own interpretation of fame and the American Dream.

Through an examination of “The Roaring 20’s” and the birth of Hollywood, students trace the development of fame and its glorification in American society.

Through analysis of speeches of great Americans who changed the world and the notion of the American Dream, students create their own speeches to present to the class and see how their individual voice can make a difference in their community.

How has the American media portrayed fame and sold it as a central facet of “The American Dream?” How have the dangers of fame been explored in American Literature?

Students examine current essays on reality television, the pursuit of fame, and its role in 21st century America.

In structured class discussions, students compare and contrast modern conceptions of fame with fame in different eras. Students provide evidence from readings and film.


Correct microphone selection and use.

Study film of various interview techniques (e.g. Frost/Nixon).


Develop, review, revise interview questions that explore “fame” and the American Dream.

Develop timeline to film interviews with various people, including an American (famous or nonfamous) in an effort to explore commonly-held beliefs and experiences with fame.

Produce onsite video interviews.

Edit video interviews incorporating lead in voiceovers, motion graphics, transition, credits, and soundtrack.

Review and revise before outputting video interviews into web ready format.

The final videos will be posted on a website or Youtube channel.

A public survey will be developed to have an authentic assessment of this project.

Analytical Essay: In a 3-4 page essay, students explore the causes and effects of fame in The Great Gatsby. How does Gatsby experience fame and why? Why is he famous and how do others treat him because of his fame? What are the effects of this fame on his personal life, career, and relationships?

Interview Transcript and Analysis: Choose one famous or non-famous American (as you define “famous”) to interview. Create 20+ questions about the idea of fame and the American Dream, which demonstrate an understanding of specific types of questions such as open, closed, hypothetical, leading, multi-barrelled, and behavioral. Include specific references to current manifestations and representations of fame. After conducting the interview, analyze the transcript for inconsistencies, implications, and subtextual beliefs about fame.

Documentary Proposal: In one detailed page, students describe the subject of their documentary (fame) and the narrative, which will accompany the film.

The Video Interview: Students develop and produce a 1-2 minute video interview of a chosen person, which explores “fame” and the American Dream. The questions are previously developed, and interview techniques will be taught. The interview will be conducted outside of class, and the video-editing will be done in class. The production of the video interview must use proper microphone equipment, and edited to incorporate any leading in voice overs, motion graphics, transition, credits, and soundtrack. After the final review and revision, the output of the video interview must be in web ready format. All final videos will be posted on a website with a public survey that will provide an “authentic audience” assessment of the project.

Unit 8 : Aspiration, Failure, and Success

Essential Question: “How has the notion of the American Dream been created, sustained, and altered throughout American history, in text and in images? How do I personally define failure and success, and how can I illustrate my own ideas about the American Dream?”

Students’ literary and video-production studies culminate in the planning and execution of an original fictional or documentary film that addresses any aspect of ‘The American Dream.’ Students reveal an personal and informed perspective on ‘aspiration, failure and success’ in support of a narrative or rhetorical goal.

“b” - English Academic Topics:

CTE - Video Production Topics:

Students read a biography of a person of their choice and examine why they believe this person to be successful, how they have become successful, and how to use lessons learned from this person to inspire their own actions towards their personal goals and aspirations.

Through the examination of biographies of many culturally diverse individuals including Malcolm X, students analyze how success has been seen by individuals  of different backgrounds and eras and derive their own meaning of success through written reflection.

Has America of present day lived up to the ideals originally set forth in the founding of the nation and the origins of the American Dream?

Students compare and contrast the ideals of liberty, democracy, rights, equality, and opportunity as seen in recent history and contemporary culture, using examples that they have learned in texts (literature, film, current issues, television, advertising, radio, other media) and in U.S. history class.

Students examine their own lives, review past journal entries, and read texts which illustrate successful achievement of the American Dream, to determine how to take the steps to achieve their own American Dreams.

Review individual writings and their team’s video work. Students also reflect on “How do I present my own ideas about the American Dream to others and both move and inspire my audience?”

Individuals develop a proposal for an original idea, from one of the course themes for creating a capstone video project (5-10 minutes long).

Digital editing to include creative title, credits, soundtrack and production tag that indicates the class, school and year the video was made.

Using the script developed in ELA, individuals plan and implement production using frequent daily reviews from peers of footage for review and revision. Critique of all final drafts before outputting.

Students continue to discuss their own progress throughout the year, and set goals for their future aspirations.

Create electronic portfolio (DVD, web site, or PDF) of both writings and videos which includes reflective writing or voice over.

Final Project Proposal: Students write a proposal for their final project outlining all the steps they need to take to complete the project, materials they need, and a timeline for completing the project. They create a calendar and checklist of procedures, and are assessed not only on the final product, but on their ability to follow-through with all tasks that they committed to in a timely and thorough manner.

Final Project: Students analyze and reflect on the themes of: identity, family, home, individualism, class, gender, race, freedom, fame, money, and success (seen through text and film), focusing on 4-6 facets of the American Dream as they understand and experience it. They provide evidence of how the American Dream has been portrayed and created by the media. Students examine how the American Dream has evolved over time and how it is currently understood and pursued today. The final film will be 5-10 minutes long, and illustrates the student’s own American dream through text, sound, and moving images. The films will be presented at a community event in which community and family members are invited to be part of the audience as well as members of the school community.

Reflective Essay: Final Self-Assessment of Final Project, Yearlong Journey. Students write a 3-4 page final self-assessment of their final project, their journey to get there, the progress they feel that they have made in all skills areas (reading, writing, public speaking, critical thinking, media production, team-work, leadership, citizenship, and presentation), and goals they have for the future, as well as strategies to achieve their success/dream.

Course Materials


Title: K-12 Curriculum for Digital Design
Edition: Online
Publication Date: 2009
Publisher: Adobe Systems Incorporated
Author(s): Adobe Education K-12 Curriculum Team
URL Resource: http://www.adobe.com/education/k12
Usage: Read in entirety or near entirety

Required CTE software, used throughout the course
Adobe: After Effects, Flash, Illustrator
Apple: LiveType, Final Cut Pro


List of Readings, Films and Podcasts:

Note: Those texts / films marked by an asterisk represent the experiences of underrepresented American subgroups. The underlined texts are full-length works, and are intended to be read cover to cover. Those texts which happen to be full-length novels, yet which are excerpted in this course (not read in entirety), are not underlined. In each section, texts / films are listed in alphabetical order by author.


Required ELA texts:
Walt Whitman Strides the Liano of New Mexico, by Rudolfo Anaya (Contemporary Poem / Chicano)*
I, Too, Hear America Singing, by Langston Hughes (Classic Poem / African American)*
I Hear America Singing, by Walt Whitman (Classic Poem)

One of the following ELA texts is required:
Straw into Gold: Metamorphosis, by Sandra Cisneros (Contemporary Essay / Chicana)*
Radiolab: Who Am I? by New York Public Radio (Podcast, Contemporary Essay)
Blue Winds Dancing, by Tom Whitecloud (Contemporary Short Story / Native American)*
America and I, by Anzia Yezierska (Classic Short Story / Jewish American)*
This I Believe, by NPR (Podcast, Contemporary Essays)

Required CTE texts:
The Language of Film, by PBS Masterpiece Theatre Learning Resources, 
Video Communication and Production, by Jim Stinson, 2007 (Textbook)

Required CTE films:
The Gold Rush, by Charles Chaplin, 1925 (Classics Silent Film)
Modern Times, by Charles Chaplin, 1936 (Classic Silent Film)
The Godfather, by Francis Ford Coppola, 1972 (Classic Film)
Freeze Frame: Eadweard Muybridge’s Photography of Motion, by the National Museum of American History, 

Optional supplemental ELA texts:
Selected Poems, by EE Cummings (Classic Poems)
Assimilation, by E.L. Doctorow (Contemporary Short Story)
Memento (excerpts), by Christopher Nolan (Contemporary Screenplay)

Optional supplemental ELA / CTE films:
The Circus, by Charles Chaplin (Classic Silent Film)
Memento, by Christopher Nolan (Contemporary Film)

Optional supplemental CTE films:
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, by Frank Capra (Classic Film)
The Birth of a Nation, by D.W. Griffith (Classic Silent Film)
Easy Rider, by Dennis Hopper (Classic Film)


Required ELA texts:
U.S. Declaration of Independence, by the Continental Congress, 1776 (Historical Doc)
No-No Boy, by John Okada, 1978 (Classic Novel / Japanese American)*
Maus (excerpts), by Art Spiegelman, 1986 (Graphic Novel / Jewish American)*

One of the following ELA texts is required:
The Story of an Hour, by Kate Chopin (Classic Short Story / Creole American)*
Self-Made Men, by Frederick Douglass (Classic Essay / African American)*
Radiolab: Choice, by New York Public Radio (Podcast, Contemporary Essay)

Required CTE texts:
Digital Video: Foundations of Video Design and Production, by Adobe, 
Making Digital Videos, by Ben Long, 2002 (Textbook)
Final Cut Pro: Editing Essentials, by Tom Wolsky (Textbook)

Required ELA / CTE films:
The Shawshank Redemption, by Frank Darabont, 1994 (Contemporary Film)
Brazil, by Terry Gilliam, 1985 (Classic Film)
Cool Hand Luke, by Stuart Rosenberg, 1967 (Classic Film)

Optional supplemental ELA texts:
The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano (excerpts), by Olaudah Equiano (Contemporary Novel / African English)*
In the Land of the Free, by Sui Sin Far (Classic Short Story / Japanese American)*
Sula, by Toni Morrison (Classic Novel / African American)*
Words, by Radiolab, a New York Public Radio show (Podcast, Contemporary Essay)

Optional supplemental ELA / CTE films:
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, by Milos Forman (Classic Film)
THX 1138, by George Lucas (Classic Film)
The Color Purple, by Steven Spielberg (Contemporary Film / African American)*


Required ELA texts:
House of Spirits (excerpts), Isabel Allende, 1982 (Novel / Chilean American)*
As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner, 1930 (Classic Novel)

One of the following ELA texts is required:
Death of a Moth, by Annie Dillard (Contemporary Short Story)
The Swim Team, by Miranda July (Contemporary Short Story)
Lost in Yonkers, by Neil Simon (Contemporary Play)
The Night the Bed Fell, by James Thurber (Contemporary Short Story)

Required CTE texts:
The Grapes of Wrath (excerpts), by John Steinbeck, 1939 (Classic Novel)

Required CTE films:
The Grapes of Wrath, directed by John Ford, 1940 (Classic Film)
Grey Gardens, by Albert and David Maysles, 1975 (Classic Documentary Film)
American Experience: The Crash of 1929, by PBS 
American Experience: The Kennedys, by PBS (Contemporary Documentary Film),
American Experience: Surviving the Dust Bowl, by PBS (Contemporary Documentary Film),  

Optional supplemental ELA texts:
Eva Luna, by Isabel Allende (Contemporary Novel / Chilean American)*
Selected Poems, by Emily Dickinson (Classic Poems)
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, by Jonathan Safran Foer (Contemporary Novel / Jewish American)*

Optional supplemental ELA / CTE films:
The Royal Tenenbaums, by Wes Anderson (Contemporary Film)
Raising Arizona, by Joel Coen (Classic Film)
Rebel Without a Cause, by Nicholas Ray (Classic Film)
Grey Gardens, directed by Michael Sucsy (Contemporary Film)
The Magnificent Ambersons, by Orson Welles (Classic Film)
Happy Days, Leave It to Beaver, The Simpsons, Arrested Development (Classic & Contemporary TV Episodes)


Required ELA texts:
On the Death of Martin Luther King, by Robert Kennedy, 1968 (Classic Speech)*
Letter from Birmingham Jail, by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 1963(Classic Speech)*
Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood (excerpts), by Marjane Satrapi, 2004 (Graphic Novel / Iranian, French)*

One of the following ELA texts is required:
Selected Poems, by Emily Dickinson (Classic Poems)
Anthem, by Ayn Rand (Classic Novel)
Civil Disobedience, by Henry David Thoreau (Classic Essay)
The Tao of Wu, by RZA of the Wu Tang Clan (Contemporary Novel / African American)*

Required CTE texts:
Citizen Kane (Original Screenplay), by Orson Welles, 1941,  

Required CTE films:
The Godfather Part II, by Francis Ford Coppola, 1974 (Classic Film)
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, by John Hughes, 1986 (Classic Film)
Citizen Kane, by Orson Welles, 1941 (Classic Film)
Persepolis, by Vincent Paronnaud, 2007 (Contemporary Film / Iranian and French)*

Optional supplemental ELA texts:
Growing Up Latino: Memoirs and Stories. Reflections of Life in the United States, by Harold Augenbraum and Ilan
Stavans (Autobiographical Essays / Latino American)*
On Language (Kinetic Typography), by Stephen Fry (Classic Essay)
Mexican Enough: My Life Between the Borderlines, by Stephanie Elizondo Griest (Autobiographical Novel / Chicana)*
When I was Puerto Rican, by Esmeralda Santiago (Autobiographical Novel / Puerto Rican American)*

Optional supplemental ELA / CTE films:
The Searchers, by John Ford (Classic Film)
The 400 Blows, by Francois Truffaut (Classic Film)
Dead Poet’s Society, by Peter Weir (Contemporary Film)


Required ELA texts:
Invisible Man (excerpts), by Ralph Ellison, 1947 (Classic Novel / African American)*
Selected Poems, by Langston Hughe, 1959 (Classic Poems / African American)*
The Good Ones are Already Taken, by Ben Fountain, 2006 (Contemporary Short Story / Feminist)*, http://www.barcelonareview.com/62/e_bf.html
Mushrooms, by Sylvia Plath (Classic Poem / Feminist)*

One of the following ELA texts is required:
The Souls of Black Folk (excerpts), by W.E.B Du Bois (Classic Novel / African American)*
Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison (Classic Novel / African American)*
Selected Poems, by Langston Hughes (Classic Poems / African American)*
Ain’t I a Woman? by Sojourner Truth (Classic Speech / African American and Feminist)*
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (excerpts), by Mark Twain (Classic Novel / African American)*

Required CTE texts:
Black Like Me (excerpts), by John Howard Griffin, 1960 (Classic Non-Fiction / African American)*
The Autobiography of Malcolm X (excerpts), by Malcolm X and Alex Haley, 1964 (Contemporary Autobiography / African American)*

Required CTE films:
Black Like Me, by Carl Lerner, 1964 (Classic Film / African American)*
Malcolm X, by Spike Lee, 1992 (Contemporary Film / African American)*

Optional supplemental ELA texts:
The Awakening, by Kate Chopin (Classic Novella / Creole American and Feminist)*
Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston (Classic Novel / African American)*
Pigs in Heaven, by Barbara Kingsolver (Contemporary Novel / Native American)*
The Woman Warrior, by Maxine Hong Kingston (Contemporary Autobiography / Chinese American)*
Brown: The Last Discovery of America, by Richard Rodriguez (Autobiography / Chicano)*
Hunger of Memory, by Richard Rodriguez (Autobiographical Novel / Chicano)*
Am I Blue? by Alice Walker (Contemporary Essay / African American)*
Blueprint for Negro Writing (excerpts), by Richard Wright (Classic Essay / African American)*

Optional supplemental ELA / CTE films:
Beloved, by Jonathan Demme (Contemporary Film)
Training Day, by Antoine Fuqua (Contemporary Film)
Crash, by Paul Haggis (Contemporary Film)
Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes, by Byron Hurt (Contemporary Documentary Film / African American and Masculinity Issues)*
Do the Right Thing, by Spike Lee (Contemporary Film / African American)*
El Norte, by Gregory Nava (Contemporary Film / Guatemalan American)*
Brother From Another Planet, by John Sayles (Contemporary Film / African American)*
Schindler’s List, by Steven Spielberg (Contemporary Film / Jewish American)*


Required ELA texts:
Interview with David O. Russell, by The Believer, 2004 (Contemporary Journalism), http://www.believermag.com/issues/200411/?read=interview_russell
Into the Wild, by Jon Krakauer, 1996 (Contemporary Novel)
The Next Thing, by Steven Millhauser (Contemporary Short Story)

One of the following ELA texts is required:
The Veldt, by Ray Bradbury (Classic Short Story)
Self-Reliance, by Ralph Waldo Emerson (Classic Essay)
Michigan Boulevard, by Jun Fujita (Classic Poem / Japanese American)*
The Grapes of Wrath (excerpts), by John Steinbeck (Classic Novel)
The Snow Man, by Wallace Stevens (Classic Poem)

Required ELA / CTE films:
Into the Wild, by Sean Penn, 2007 (Contemporary Film)
I Heart Huckabees, by David O. Russell, 2004 (Contemporary Film)
Scarface, by Brian DePalma, 1983 (Contemporary Film)
Iconoclasts: Sean Penn and Jon Krakauer, Episode 1 Season 3, by Sundance Channel, 2007 (Short Contemporary Documentary Film)

Optional supplemental ELA texts:
White Noise, by Don DeLillo (Contemporary Novel)
Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street, by Herman Melville (Classic Short Story)
The Pearl, by John Steinbeck (Classic Novella)
Nature, by Henry David Thoreau (Classic Essay)

Optional supplemental ELA / CTE films:
Merchants of Cool, by Frontline (Contemporary Documentary Film)
The Persuaders, by Frontline (Contemporary Documentary Film)
Helvetica, by Gary Hustwit (Contemporary Documentary Film)
Objectified, by Gary Hustwit (Contemporary Documentary Film)


Required ELA texts:
The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1925 (Classic Novel)
Balloon Boy’s Lesson: The New American Dream, by James Poniewozik for Time Magazine, 2009 (Contemporary Essay), 
Andy Was Right, by Josh Tyrangiel for Time Magazine, 2006 (Contemporary Essay), 

One of the following ELA texts is required:
The Snakehead: An Epic Tale of the Chinatown Underworld and the American Dream (excerpts), by Patrick Radden Keefe (Contemporary Non-Fiction / Chinese American)*
West Side Story (excerpts), by Arthur Laurents (Classic Musical / Puerto-Rican American)*
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream (excerpts), by Hunter S. Thompson (Classic Novel)*

Required ELA / CTE texts:
This American Life: Various Podcasts, by NPR (Podcast, Contemporary Essay)
Radiolab: Fate and Fortune, by New York Public Radio, 2010 (Podcast, Contemporary Essay), 

Required CTE films:
Ray, by Taylor Hackford, 2004 (Contemporary Film / African American)*
Frost / Nixon, by Rob Howard, 2008 (Contemporary Film)
The Insider, by Michael Mann, 1999 (Contemporary Film)
Basquiat, by Julian Schnabel, 1996 (Contemporary Film / African American)*

Optional supplemental ELA / CTE texts:
Radiolab: Famous Tumors, by New York Public Radio (Podcast, Contemporary Essay)
Scratch Beginnings: Me, $25, and the Search for the American Dream (excerpts), by Adam Shepard (Contemporary Autobiographical Novel)

Optional supplemental ELA / CTE films:
Who Killed Vincent Chin? by Christine Choy and Renee Tajima-Pena (Contemporary Documentary Film)
Good Night, and Good Luck, by George Clooney (Contemporary Film)
Garrison Keillor on Being Famous, by PBS American Masters (Short Documentary Film)
Thank You For Smoking, by Jason Reitman (Contemporary Film)


Required ELA texts:
A Raisin in the Sun (excerpts), by Lorraine Hansberry, 1958 (Classic Play / African American)*
I Have a Dream, by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 1963 (Classic Speech / African American)*, http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/mlkihaveadream.htm
Harlem (A Dream Deferred), by Langston Hughes (Classic Poem / African American)*

One of the following ELA texts is required:
Across a Hundred Mountains, by Reyna Grande (Contemporary Novel / Chicana)*Moby Dick, by Herman Melville (Classic Novel)
Death of a Salesman, by Arthur Miller (Classic Play)
The Autobiography of Malcolm X (excerpts), by Malcolm X (Classic Autobiography / African American)*
El Sueno De America / The American Dream (excerpts), by Esmeralda Santiago (Contemporary Novel / Puerto Rican American)*

Required CTE films:
Office Space, by Mike Judge, 1999 (Contemporary Film)
American Beauty, by Sam Mendes, 1999 (Contemporary Film)
Midnight Cowboy, by John Schlesinger, 1969 (Classic Film)
Wall Street, directed by Oliver Stone, 1987 (Contemporary Film)

Optional supplemental ELA texts:
Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream (excerpts), by Andres
Duany, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, Jeff Speck (Contemporary Non-Fiction)
Outliers: The Story of Success, by Malcolm Gladwell (Contemporary Non-Fiction)
The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream (excerpts), by Barack Obama (Contemporary Non-Fiction)
Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us (excerpts), by Daniel Pink (Contemporary Non-Fiction)
Always Running: La Vida Loca, Gang Days in L.A., by Luis Rodriguez (Contemporary Autobiographical Novel / Chicano)*
Burro Genius: A Memoir, by Victor Villaseñor (Contemporary Autobio Novel / Chicano)*

Optional supplemental CTE films:
Touching the Void, by Kevin MacDonald (Contemporary Film)
Taxi Driver, by Martin Scorsese (Classic Film)
Bicycle Thieves, by Vittorio De Sica (Classic Italian Film)
Rocky, by Sylvester Stallone (Classic Film)

Stay informed with key updates from UC High School Articulation!
Sign up for our monthly e-newsletter!