Six Beginners - One Class: How Group Piano Lessons Work
After several years of teaching one-to-one piano lessons, I am really enjoying the hub-bub of group lessons, seeing the students interact and make new friends. Currently, in my Level 1 class, students range in age from 6 to 9 years, and although they are all beginners on the piano, everyone brings their own musical experience and personality to the group.
As in most classrooms, when it comes to learning, it's a mixed bag: some students like to learn through watching and doing, others prefer a quieter, more reflective approach; some pick up new things quickly and are keen to move on, others need a steadier pace and more time to digest. It's a diverse range of needs and abilities. So, given that they are all in the same group, you may be wondering how multi-level piano classes work: how DO we effectively teach six individuals in a group setting?
KeyNotes Music is an innovative group piano curriculum that caters for the needs of individuals through the design and delivery of its lessons. The programme promotes access to learning for all students and enables them to work at a level and pace that is right for them.
Each week, new skills and concepts are presented through a series of activities. Depending on the topic, we hear it, sing it, clap it, see it (on page and keyboard), table-top tap-it, write it, colour it, chant it..... you name it, we do it. It is a multi-sensory approach that gets the message across to every student in multiple ways.
Differentiated Learning for Mixed Abilities
To accommodate a mix of abilities within the group, the weekly piano piece has three to five levels of difficulty. At the beginning of the practice (headphone) session, all students start on the first level and once they have mastered it, are assigned an extension.
My role during the session is to monitor what they are doing, to make sure everyone is challenged and working to the best of their ability. That means assigning extensions to those who are quick to complete a task, and supporting or simplifying for those who are struggling or need a bit longer to consolidate.
Assessment and Feedback
During class and over the course of the term, through my interactions with the students, I am constantly monitoring progress and assessing how well they are meeting the objectives for the lesson - these are written at the bottom of the page in the workbooks and are part of a wider set of objectives and skills that students must complete for each level.
At the end of every term, parents receive a short report so they can see exactly how their child is doing. Once students are CONSISTENTLY achieving ALL the objectives in a level, they are ready to MOVE UP to the next KeyNotes level. In this way, classes are constantly evolving as new students join to fill the vacant spots.
I hope this overview has given you a better understanding of how the KeyNotes piano programme is structured and how individual needs are met within the group setting. Some students may take several workbooks to achieve the objectives, others may fly through in just a couple before moving up. How long it takes is not relevant, it is more important that their understanding is solid at each level and that they feel a sense of achievement as they move through each book. This is what successful learning and happy piano lessons are all about.