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Just as keys unlock a door, the Content Imperatives are terms that unlock the meaning of an area or topic of study.  Each Content Imperative provides students with a prompt to initiate in-depth inquiry about the subject matter. These icons focus the investigation of a topic of study from a broad, general area to a more structured and specific one. Content Imperatives help educators differentiate the core curriculum so that it is aligned to the needs and abilities of gifted and high-ability students. The Content Imperative icons represent a set of terms that activate higher levels of knowing. They demand more sophisticated resources of information, more analytical thinking to understand the subject matter, and more complicated products to share what has been learned. Content Imperatives can be effective when used independently, but they were designed to be used in pairings with the Depth and Complexity Icons.

The Origin icon directs students to think critically about the beginnings, roots, catalysts, and foundations of a topic. Learners consider the source of an idea or event.

The Paradox icon instructs learners to focus their attention on the contradictions and ironies. Students using this lens of learning will analyze the topic for incongruities and quandaries.

The Convergence icon invites students to think about the intersection of ideas and events and how they are tied together. This lens of learning helps students recognize the factors that occur concurrently and understand the resulting conjunction of ideas.

The Parallel icon asks students to interpret similarities among events, people, or problems. Learners consider how principles correspond and compare and contrast with evidence.

The Contribution icon encourages learners to draw conclusions about the significant parts or results of an idea or event. This lens of learning focuses students’ attention on the components of the topic and its lasting effects.

Watch the videos below to learn more about each Content Imperative. It may help to print yourself a copy of the Content Imperative Cheat Sheet.

Content imperatives are a set of keywords that focus the learner’s attention on the elements of depth and complexity and are intended to function in tandem with them. The following task or objective illustrates how the teacher has decided students will fulfill the demands of a social studies standard:

Students will identify the contributions of the patterns of meeting basic needs among ancient desert cultures. They will gather information from the Internet, teacher presentations, and textbooks and will produce a timeline to illustrate their knowledge.

Aligning the prompt of patterns with a specific content imperative enables the student to specify the aspect of patterns that is to be investigated, studied, and assimilated.

The set of icons for Depth and Complexity are correlated to the work of experts in various fields of study. They respond to the question: What content or knowledge distinguishes individuals who are expert in a field of study?

Each of the Depth and Complexity icon prompts answers the question: What is most important for students to know about this topic, subject area or discipline? Educators must decide which of the prompts is best aligned to the needs of students, the demands of the curriculum, and the constraints of time and resources. Although it may be tempting to have students attend to all of the prompts in a single lesson, unit of study or subject area, the selection of one or two significant prompts to provide focus while delving into and comprehending content is more effective, productive, and highly valued.