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have the last word on intelligence

The year 4 class at St Michael's Grammar School is poring over a page of dots.

While Organisation of Dots is an especially abstract instrument, others have more real world applications, such as orientation in space and time or data gathering and classification. However, none of the exercises are based on prior knowledge, which means that students who might be weak readers or struggle in other subjects can still thrive.

St Michael's Grammar will assess whether to make FIE a permanent part of the curriculum, including possibly offering it in year 7 for the small number of students who don't do a second language.

''Why do you think it's so important to have this conversation before you start the page?'' Ms Almquist asks. ''If you don't know what to do, you might make hundreds of mistakes that's what I did,'' Alexander Dymalovski says.

Eighty six teachers from 45 independent schools in Victoria have been trained to teach FIE. The program is an intensive one best results are achieved when students do two sessions a week for 12 to 24 months.

''There is always a king and queen of dots and they are not the best readers,'' Ms Almquist says. ''These kids have to come to terms with the fact there are many ways of being smart.''

Dahlia Kline, 9, says FIE, as the year 4 class calls it, ''helps you in everyday life to be precise''. Asked to nominate when in life you need to be precise, she says: Converse High Tops Leather Brown

St Michael's Grammar teacher Kate Hopkins encourages the class to use the problem solving skills in other subjects, such as maths or when compiling a historical timeline.

Professor Feuerstein, an Israeli psychologist, developed the program after working with traumatised child survivors of the Holocaust, many of whom scored three to six years below their age on IQ tests. The improvement in the children after they received educational and psychological assistance made him question the prevailing belief that intelligence was fixed and could not be taught. ''The chromosomes do not have the last word,'' Professor Feuerstein is often quoted saying.

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St Converse Shoes Limited Edition Michael's Grammar is trialling the Feuerstein Instrumental Enrichment program in year 4. Organisation of Dots is one of 14 units, or instruments, consisting of exercises that help with thinking skills including problem solving, planning, decision making, concentration and positive attitudes towards learning. Put simply, the children are learning how to learn.

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helping the class come up with strategies to approach the exercises. These include counting the number of dots in the curve of the mitten or searching first for the sides of the Boogie board. The children come up with their own ideas: rotate the page, use a ruler to find parallel lines, make the pencil lines light before they are sure.

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The exercise, Organisation of Dots, may look simple, but it is part of a cognitive skills course that its creator, Reuven Feuerstein, believes provides an answer to one of the great questions of our time: can intelligence be taught?

''There are lots of positives about it but there are so many wonderful things we do there is a lot of competition for curriculum time,'' Ms Hopkins says.

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There are two shapes: a ''mitten'' and a ''Boogie board'', and the task is to find them, hidden in constellations of pink and grey specks. It's a bit like a pen and paper version of trying to locate the Southern Cross in the night sky. The children love the addictive puzzles, so much so one asked if they could do them on school camp. ''It's like a fun thing to do at school,'' says Digby Newton Brown, 10.

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''The children can definitely verbalise they need to approach things systematically, they need to avoid using use a trial and error approach, they need to come up with a hypothesis, but whether they are actually doing this in other situations, I'm not sure yet,'' Ms Hopkins says.

Today Feuerstein Instrumental Enrichment is taught in more than 50 countries, with mainstream and gifted students as well as those with learning difficulties benefiting. It has also been used in corporations such as Motorola Converse Shoes White Men

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