Welcome to Little KeyNotes, our group piano curriculum for ages 4-5, providing the foundations of piano playing for our youngest learners, using songs, games, and of course the group setting.
Little KeyNotes Workbook Topics
All our games, images and songs are based around the following topics
An overview of the skills and concepts covered in our Little KeyNotes curriculum
Understanding how essential it is to have an overarching plan, we have laid out exactly how we approach piano learning in this skills and concepts overview.
Dynamics: concept of loud/soft
Tempo: concept of fast/slow
Structure : 2-bar repeated melody
Pitch: concept of high/low
Melodies: move by step or in 3rds
Scales, Chords & Keys
Songs in C Major
5-finger C scale
Occasional C and E, 2-note chord
Technique & Articulation
5-finger C position – RH
5-finger G position – RH
C and B in LH
Concept of held notes and short notes
(Extensions: LH octaves with RH)
Rhythms & Time Signatures
Crotchets, minims, semibreves
Songs mainly in 4/4, occasional 2/4 and 3/4
Pitch Names / Notation
Pre-reader – melodic contour with rhythmic notation
All note names as letters
The Key Difference
Our cyclical curriculum and our system of differentiation are what makes our program different.
Five workbooks essentially cover the same objectives, ensuring that learning is consolidated and secure and our system of differentiation ensures there is progress in how children are accessing the learning.
Each piece has 3-4 difficulty levels (we call them challenges) and students might start their lessons playing the first challenge (right-hand only for example), and then in the next workbook they might play challenge 2 (hands together in octaves), then challenge 3 the next time (different left hand) and finally challenge 4 (independent hands together). There is always somewhere for them to go.
This not only makes for a great learning structure - cyclical and iterative processes are proven to be most effective in any learning context - but also allows for flexibility for teachers. If a child starts late in the book, there is always something they can be learning and playing. If a few children move out of a group to the next level, new children can be brought into the group, learning alongside the more experienced players.
Children love music. They naturally and instinctively understand so much more than we realise. We can help them to use this understanding and apply it to different intentions. Why is a high pitch good for representing a bird? How can we use tempo to show the differences between a snail and a beetle? Our themed workbooks ensure that there are plenty of opportunities to explore musical elements in relation to characters, stories, ideas and moods. Plus, of course, we have many games that make the exploration even more fun!
Children don't need much introduction to the concept of pitch where it comes to highs and lows. However, we go further and consider how pitch can be used to represent different characters or stories.
Through songs and games, and varying the dynamics of our playing, children learn how louds and softs can impact the mood in music, building suspense and creating some wonderful moments of surprise.
Tempo is another one that needs little introduction with children, but learning Italian terms and being able to march, tip-toe and dance in time with the music, whether it is fast or slow, is an incredibly important (and fun) skill.
A solid foundation in keyboard geography
Little KeyNotes students get to know what the notes are, where the notes are, how to find them independently. Through games, songs and pompoms, they are given anchors to help them build their knowledge and be able to navigate a piano or keyboard without gimmicks or tricks. We teach our students that a C is a C, not a random animal or some other object. They are very good at singing the musical alphabet and can apply that knowledge to the keyboard.
Learning through play is a well-established concept at this age, and luckily for us, we can very easily ensure that we are meeting this important learning process. First of all, we enable them to play and explore the piano! Something which they very naturally enjoy! Then we can teach skills and concepts through games. Each of our games follows the theme for the workbook and ensures that learning objectives for each lesson are embedded.
Technique from the very start
Our pieces build finger strength, 5-finger positions (in C and G) and a bubble hand position. We have games and exercises that develop knowledge of the different sounds that can be achieved through the way that we play the piano. Many of these are related to a programmatic element such as crabs pinching in our 'Under the Sea' workbook.
Supporting parents to support their child
We are so passionate about the importance of parents' role in their child's piano-learning journey; it is key to the child's confidence, self-efficacy, and perseverance. As such, we provide an area of our site where parents can watch practice videos for each lesson. This is in addition to the parent practice sheets that teachers are able to hand out each week.
Structured for maximum impact
Lesson structure for little ones is key to ensuring they are taking on board new skills and concepts, whilst continuously consolidating and reviewing previous ones. The way that we can achieve that is to have a fast-paced, multi-activity lesson structure, that is suited to this age and provides opportunities for a variety of learner-types.
We also make sure that our lesson structure and content is consistent from week to week, so that children can manage their expectations and behave in the way that they know is appropriate. Here is what our typical structure looks like:
- Game or song to introduce new concept as a starter activity
- Making a floor piano with laminated keyboards and using pompoms to find the note for the lesson
- Finding the note on the main piano, colouring it in on our workbook and drawing the letter name
- Singing and playing the song for the lesson around the main piano, singing lyrics, finger numbers and letter names
- Children practice at the keyboards (with headphones) and perform their piece as both a solo and ensemble once they are all ready
- Lesson ends with a game/song, and of course a sticker!
Accompaniments help to bring the programmatic elements of the pieces to life, as well as making sure that everyone stays in time!
Our accompaniments are played on the piano as we want to highlight the many different and wonderful effects achieved on just one instrument!
Here is an example of our crab song accompaniment.
Little KeyNotes has five workbooks, each lasting approximately 12 weeks. Each workbook has a theme, and all learning, playing and gaming are based around them.