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Earlier in this series, you met the eleven dimensions of depth and complexity. Today you’ll be introduced to another set of rigor-increasing, engagement-enhancing thinking tools known as the content imperatives, also developed by Sandra Kaplan.

Disclaimer: Naturally, the best place to learn to use these tools is through a training or a book by the creator.


Much like depth and complexity, the content imperatives are thinking tools designed to dig deeper into content. They provide a simple way to differentiate curriculum and increase complexity for gifted learners. Each content imperative has a corresponding icon, just like depth and complexity. Here’s the list (good news, there’s only five!):

Origin Paradox Parallel Convergence Contribution


Although less well-known than depth and complexity, there is still some great information on the web to enhance your understanding of the content imperatives.

Try It With Popcorn

Again, we’ll examine the rather bland topic of popcorn using the content imperatives to add interest and rigor:

  • What are the origins of popcorn?
  • Examine the paradox of health and flavor in popcorn.
  • What cultures have a snack food that parallels popcorn?
  • What has contributed to the popularity of popcorn?
  • What factors converge to cause popcorn to pop?

Apply To Your Curriculum

  • What are the parallels between addition and multiplication?
  • What are the origins of democracy?
  • What factors converged to solve the problem in this story?
  • How does heat contribute to density?
  • Identify a paradox in this character’s actions and thoughts.

Start Differentiating Tomorrow!

The content imperatives provide a straight-forward way to increase the rigor of standard curriculum for your gifted students. Stay tuned for ideas on combining these tools for even more depth and complexity!

3 Ideas

  1. Mrswilcox 18 August 2009 at 11:37 am #

    I love these refresher articles on the Icons and Content Imperatives! And your Differentiator is pure genius! Thanks for being such a great resource. Also wanted to let you know that the links to the Long Beach Unified Content Imperative stuff aren't working. It seems they've taken down a lot of their good GATE materials. Maybe someone has copies they would be willing to share?

  2. Ian Byrd 18 August 2009 at 4:39 pm #

    Thanks for the feedback! Didn't realize Long Beach had taken down their information. I'll remove my link then.

  3. Ian Byrd 18 August 2009 at 8:39 pm #

    Thanks for the feedback! Didn't realize Long Beach had taken down their information. I'll remove my link then.

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