Unit Plan

World 1-1

What lessons can the first level of Super Mario Bros. teach us about interactive design and storytelling?

Grade, level

Grade 11, Open


English (Media Studies)


8 days, 480 minutes

Ontario curriculum expectations  
English: Grade 11: Media Studies (Open): Overall expectation(s)
A. Understanding and Interpreting Media Texts
1. Understanding and Responding to Media Texts — demonstrate understanding of a variety of media texts.
2 Deconstructing Media Texts — deconstruct a variety of types of media texts, identifying the codes, conventions, and techniques used and explaining how they create meaning.
D. Producing and Reflecting On Media Texts
1 Producing Media Texts — create a variety of media texts for different audiences and purposes, using effective forms, codes, conventions, and techniques.
2 Careers in Media Production — demonstrate an understanding of roles and career options in a variety of media industries.
3 Metacognition — demonstrate an understanding of their growth as media consumers, media analysts, and media producers.
ITSE Standards for Students  
1. Empowered Learner
1a Students articulate and set personal learning goals, develop strategies leveraging technology to achieve them and reflect on the learning process itself to improve learning outcomes.
1b Students build networks and customize their learning environments in ways that support the learning process.
1c Students use technology to seek feedback that informs and improves their practice and to demonstrate their learning in a variety of ways.
1d Students understand the fundamental concepts of technology operations, demonstrate the ability to choose, use and troubleshoot current technologies and are able to transfer their knowledge to explore emerging technologies.
2. Digital citizen
2c Students demonstrate an understanding of and respect for the rights and obligations of using and sharing intellectual property.
4. Innovative designer
4a Students know and use a deliberate design process for generating ideas, testing theories, creating innovative artifacts or solving authentic problems.
4b Students select and use digital tools to plan and manage a design process that considers design constraints and calculated risks.
4c Students develop, test and refine prototypes as part of a cyclical design process.
4d Students exhibit a tolerance for ambiguity, perseverance and the capacity to work with open-ended problems.
6. Creative communicator
6b Students create original works or responsibly repurpose or remix digital resources into new creations.
6c Students communicate complex ideas clearly and effectively by creating or using a variety of digital objects such as visualizations, models or simulations.
6d Students publish or present content that customizes the message and medium for their intended audiences.
7. Global collaborator
7a Students use digital tools to connect with learners from a variety of backgrounds and cultures, engaging with them in ways that broaden mutual understanding and learning.
7b Students use collaborative technologies to work with others, including peers, experts or community members, to examine issues and problems from multiple viewpoints.
7c Students contribute constructively to project teams, assuming various roles and responsibilities to work effectively toward a common goal.
Canadian digital literacy  
  Ethics and empathy
This category addresses students’ social-emotional skills and empathy towards others as well as their ability to make ethical decisions in digital environments when dealing with issues such as cyberbullying, sharing other people’s content and accessing music and video.
  Finding and verifying
Students need the skills to effectively search the Internet for information they need for personal and school purposes, and then evaluate and authenticate the sources and information they find.
  Making and remixing
Making and remixing skills enable students to create digital content and use existing content for their own purposes in ways that respect legal and ethical considerations and to use digital platforms to collaborate with others.
Universal Design for Learning  
1. Perception
1.1 Offer ways of customizing the display of information
2. Language & symbols
2.1 Clarify vocabulary and symbols
2.2 Clarify syntax and structure
2.3 Support decoding of text, mathematical notation, and symbols
2.5 Illustrate through multiple media
3. Comprehension
3.1 Activate or supply background knowledge
3.2 Highlight patterns, critical features, big ideas, and relationships
3.3 Guide information processing and visualization
3.4 Maximize transfer and generalization
Action & Expression
4. Physical action
4.1 Vary the methods for response and navigation
4.2 Optimize access to tools and assistive technologies
5. Expression & communication
5.1 Use multiple media for communication
5.2 Use multiple tools for construction and composition
5.3 Build fluencies with graduated levels of support for practice and performance
6. Executive functions
6.1 Guide appropriate goal-setting
6.2 Support planning and strategy development
6.3 Facilitate managing information and resources
6.4 Enhance capacity for monitoring progress
7. Recruiting interest
7.1 Optimize individual choice and autonomy
7.2 Optimize relevance, value, and authenticity
7.3 Minimize threats and distractions
8. Sustaining effort & persistence
8.1 Heighten salience of goals and objectives
8.2 Vary demands and resources to optimize challenge
8.3 Foster collaboration and community

Screencast: An introduction to World 1-1

Why Super Mario Bros. World 1-1 is a masterpiece and why it’s important to study video games.



Instructor’s rationale

World 1-1: Why we should be studying video games in language arts

What Super Mario Bros. can teach us about interactive design and 21st century storytelling.

Additional resources

How the inventor of Mario designs a game

Shigeru Miyamoto’s design philosophy, explained.

A brief history of video games

The entire history of video games, from their earliest origins all the way up to the end of the seventh generation, in 2013.

Miyamoto on World 1-1: How Nintendo made Mario’s most iconic level

Shigeru Miyamoto and Takashi Tezuka discuss their history with Nintendo and the Mario franchise, including a walkthrough of World 1-1.

Game Maker’s Tookit

Nintendo: Putting play first

A look at Nintendo’s method of making games, which helps the Japanese developer stand out from most other studios.

Game Maker’s Tookit

The secret of Mario’s jump (and other versatile verbs) 

Player actions that can have multiple uses, depending on how you perform them — in a number of excellent games.

Game Maker’s Tookit

Super Mario 3D World‘s 4 step level design

Nintendo has developed a reusable level design structure that allows for ideas to be properly taught and established, in about five minutes flat.

The first level of each 2D Mario game

How does each game introduce its concepts and gameplay?

Top 10 2D Mario levels

As one of the originators of the genre, the “Super Mario” series includes some of the best platforming level design ever seen in gaming.

Every Nintendo console ever

From NES to Switch, Nintendo more than any other console manufacturer has revolutionized the space, over and over again.


Brown, M. (11 November 2016). Nintendo – Putting Play First. Game Maker’s Toolkit. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2u6HTG8LuXQ

Grand Theft Auto V for PlayStation 4. (n.d.). GameFAQs. Retrieved from https://gamefaqs.gamespot.com/ps4/805601-grand-theft-auto-v

How long does it take to read popular books? (28 June 2017). Retrieved from https://www.personalcreations.com/blog/how-long-does-it-take-to-read-popular-books

Investing in the soaring popularity of gaming. (13 June 2018). Reuters. Retrieved from https://www.reuters.com/sponsored/article/popularity-of-gaming

Livingstone, S. (2014). Developing social media literacy: How children learn to interpret risky opportunities on social network sites. Communications, 39(3). https://doi.org/10.1515/commun-2014-0113

Lynch, K. (8 October 2013). Confirmed: Grand Theft Auto 5 breaks 6 sales world records. Retrieved from http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/news/2013/10/confirmed-grand-theft-auto-breaks-six-sales-world-records-51900

Ontario Ministry of Education. (2016). 21st century competencies: foundation document for discussion. Retrieved from http://www.edugains.ca/resources21CL/About21stCentury/21CL_21stCenturyCompetencies.pdf

Ontario Ministry of Education. (2007). The Ontario Curriculum: Grades 11 and 12: English. Retrieved from http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/curriculum/elementary/health18curr.pdf

Snead, J. & Bleszinski, C. (Producers), & Snead, J. (Director). (2014). Video Games: The Movie. US: Variance Films.

Spires, H., Kerkhoff, S., & Paul, C. (2020). Read, write, inquire : disciplinary literacy in grades 6-12 . New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

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