Freckle in the Classroom
St. Comgall’s Primary School, Northern Ireland
Freckle in the Classroom
St. Comgall’s Primary School is a Catholic maintained co-ed primary school situated on the outskirts of Antrim town in Northern Ireland. Catherine Magee, Key Stage 2 teacher and Senior Leadership Team member at the school, explains how staff have been using both Star Maths and Freckle to support maths in the classroom.
“We use Star Maths at the end of each term with a whole class to formulate our groups for the incoming term. We also use it on an individual pupil basis. For example, if there has been a maths intervention programme, perhaps for children with additional needs, we use Star Maths for pre/post intervention data, to help measure the value added. Some teachers use Star Maths in their Personal Learning Plans (PLPs) as a tool for measuring progress.
“We use the Star Maths Screening Report, Growth Report and the Instructional Planning – Student Report. Teachers find the data in these reports extremely useful for informing our own end of term reports for parents and PLPs/IEPs. The Instructional Planning Report details the particular maths skills and knowledge that a pupil needs to develop. For example, ‘Recognise 1/3, 1/4, 2/4, and 3/4 of a length, shape or set of objects’ or, for a high-performing child, the report indicates the level of teaching and practice the child is ready for, for example, ‘Independently round numbers and measures to an appropriate number of decimal places’.
“Star Maths links to Freckle which we additionally started to use in September 2022. Freckle is a computer adaptive maths platform on which the questions are pitched in accordance with the profile acquired by Star Maths. If you are familiar with Accelerated Reader, Star Maths essentially provides Freckle with a child’s ‘ZPD’ so it can ask specifically tailored questions.
Embedding Freckle in the classroom
“Freckle is now part of daily life in our classroom. We are not a 1:1 device ratio school, we have some desktop PCs, Chromebooks and iPads in our classrooms, and these are sufficient for effectively using Freckle. When children finish a written maths task, they instinctively log on to Freckle (it has a very simple login process). We have a Freckle Friday policy: we assign tasks for the following week based on the previous week’s maths content. It is a cycle that facilitates consolidation and it means that there is no time wasted by teachers holding back on setting tasks until children have acquired enough subject knowledge to complete the task.
“Children spend approximately three fifths of the week working through the tasks assigned by the teacher and two fifths on ‘free practice’ – working on areas they know require additional support. Standardised test scores from GL Assessment’s Progress Test in Maths (PTM) are pivotal here too. Children have a PTM target – their weakest category area. Children are tested in Number, Measures, Handling Data and Shape and Space. They spend some of their ‘free practice’ Freckle time working on their target area. They are encouraged to do the two fact practices daily, just to cement and encourage speed and accuracy in the four operations. The fact practice can be edited by the teacher who can remove operations if they want to focus solely on certain types of calculation.
Real-life maths situations
“We also use Freckle for whole-class teaching. It offers Inquiry-Based Learning (IBL) tasks. The children can work through these tasks individually but I find them most effective when taught whole-class. The lesson is divided into 3 days on Freckle, but I have found that the children are so engaged that you are better comprising the three videos, activities and tasks to make one mighty Inquiry-Based Lesson! The lessons are easily searchable on Freckle by year group and, at a glance, it’s clear to see the area of maths that is being addressed such as fractions, percentages etc. The lessons are also positioned in the context of real-life situations which makes maths more meaningful and interesting. These situations are not all shop-based but feature other more exciting scenarios. For example, I did an IBL with my class called ‘Taking Public Transportation’ which used division of multi-digit numbers to help plan public transportation in a city. Other lessons have focussed on a space museum, presidential candidates, an archaeological dig and sea turtle hatchlings!
“Freckle has Inquiry Sheets – essentially worksheets that can be printed off (with solutions). These can be on a particular topic such as fractions or you can select the topic and the Freckle wizardry will generate personalised worksheets with each child’s name on them which are directly equitable with their ability as measured by Star Maths. Freckle also shows learning objectives which teachers can type into their planners, essentially doing all of the ‘spade work’, leaving teachers to teach.
“One of the biggest appeals of Freckle is its in-built, effortless, time-efficient differentiation. It facilitates pace appropriate learning; pupils are not ushered on at a group-set pace and it’s great to see pupils mastering the content at a pace appropriate for them. It is so easy for the teacher to differentiate tasks – both up and down. In terms of differentiating down, it is so subtle – in fact, it is completely invisible, the children are not aware. There isn’t a big, pink, flashing, neon sign saying ‘you’re different’ which can often be the case with differentiation!
“A few weeks ago I assigned the bulk of my class a Primary 6 decimals task, six children a Primary 7 task and five children a Primary 4 task – nobody knew, the tasks just present as ‘to-dos’ in the child’s rucksack. There is nothing more deflating for children, in terms of differentiation, than when they are asked to complete a task which is virtually unrecognisable from the class teaching. Freckle allows teachers to completely avoid this situation. It’s like a big, warm blanket for the weaker children – they feel protected and looked after and they know the work will be right for them without the glare of their peers.
Engaging for children to use
“Children like the gamification side of Freckle too – that they can earn coins and use these on the Freckle platform to create their own avatars. To further motivate the children, we have our own Freckle 100% boxes. Every time a pupil achieves 100% in a task, they put their name in a box, every month in assembly a name is randomly pulled out and that child wins 1000 coins to spend in the Freckle shop and a packet of Percy Pigs!
“Children love using Freckle. They tell us ‘It doesn’t feel like normal maths work, it’s more fun!’ and ‘I like the way it tells you where you are – it’s only ever positive, not negative.’
Support at home
“Freckle is now established as a homework platform so parents have become naturally ‘au fait’ with it. We initially sent a communication to parents telling them that we were using it and describing it as a ‘sibling of Accelerated Reader’ so parents instantly trusted it. It’s incredibly user-friendly for parents, their child simply logs in and completes the task or free practice. Its simplicity is part of its power.
“We have a whole school Freckle week for Primary 4 – 7 once a term when we suspend written homework and have a digital homework week. I teach Primary 6 and have also advised parents to increase Freckle usage at home as it is excellent practice for the new SEAG test.
“Since using Freckle, our average Progress Test in Maths score has increased, and we have seen value added in all tested categories. Freckle has definitely been a big factor in contributing to this success. I also feel that Freckle has helped to decrease anxiety and a negative mindset regarding maths. Overall, it has injected positivity and helped to raise standards.”