Making the Band

Modern Band in the K-3 Classroom

By NAfME Member Nicole Guimaraes 

Presented Making the Band: Modern Band Method in the K-3 Classroom at the “NAfME is ME!” 2022 NAfME National Conference.

Over the past several years, the modern band movement has taken the music education world by storm. All over the country, students are performing on ukuleles, guitar, and drums, forming bands, and learning all types of music including pop, rock, and hip hop. There is even a NAfME All-National Modern Band ensemble that performs music selected by the students and suits their interests.

What about our littlest learners though? Can our students in kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd grades actually participate in modern band?

The answer is: absolutely they can.

When we think about what skills are needed to build a modern band, there are a few key elements that come to mind: steady beat, stage presence, and improvisation. Let’s break these down with a few activities:

Steady Beat: Movement Song

I have a rule in my music room: When music is playing, your voices are OFF. With that in mind, students must learn to communicate non-verbally, which is exactly what happens in a modern band setting.

  1. Divide your students into groups of 4-5 students.
  2. One student will serve as the “leader” and the rest of the group should match the leader’s moves. The leader can do whatever they like, as long as it’s safe!
  3. When that student doesn’t want to be the leader, they can pass to another person, without using their voice.
  4. They may point, use eye contact, or find another creative way to communicate with the next leader.
  5. A new student takes over until they decide to switch.

I suggest practicing without music first and adding the music element once students are comfortable. This allows them to internalize the silence and figure out how to communicate!

Movement songs are amazing because we can expose our students to a variety of artists and genres. Here are a few song ideas:

  • 9-5, Dolly Parton
  • Permission to Dance, BTS
  • Danza Kuduro, Don Omar
  • Hair Up, Justin Timberlake
  • I Got You, James Brown
  • Ultraluminary, Phillipa Soo
  • Wizards in Winter, Transiberian Orchestra
  • Sir Duke, Stevie Wonder
  • I Wanna Dance with Somebody, Whitney Houston
  • Cher, Believe
  • I’m Still Standing, Elton John
  • River Deep, Mountain High, Celine Dion
  • Waka Waka, Shakira
  • I’m Walking on Sunshine, Katrina and the Waves

Stage Presence: Build a Microphone

As we explore what it means to perform, we need to give our students tools to cope with any nerves they may have. The microphone activity is a favorite of my students, and there are several variations that can be used along with it.

Here is your script: 

“Imagine you are on a stage, about to perform in front of an audience. You are so nervous, you can feel yourself sweating. The only thing that will make you feel better is knowing you have your special microphone. Your microphone could be any color you want. It could be big, small, or medium sized. It could be on a stand. You could hold it, or it could attach to your body. It can have glitter or lasers. It can have shapes on it and be pink, or silver, or rainbow. It could have a picture of your family or your pet on it. It can be anything you want it to be. Now, describe your microphone. Share with your partner.”

Now that your students have envisioned their microphone, it’s time to build it! Using a set of legos, or other materials (this is a great project to be paired with your art or STEAM teacher!), allow them time and space to build. If legos or building are not an option, allow them time to draw and create. When you are done building it, put it to the test—sing a simple melody or a song that your class loves!

student with lego microphone

Photo courtesy of Nicole Guimaraes

Every time your students perform, whether it is an in-class performance or in a more formal setting, remind them to pick up their microphone.

Improvisation: Number Rapping

Number rapping is one of my absolute favorite activities to do with students! It is a low-stakes, fun and meaningful way of reaching students. It is accessible for English learners and less verbal (or even non-verbal) students.

Find a good backing track and start with the numbers 1, 2, 3, and 4. You can say them in any order with any rhythm. Once your students get comfortable with you being the leader, allow them to take charge. You will see that many of them want to use other numbers. As they are more comfortable, allow them to add more numbers. This is a great way to practice skip counting and can be done together or back and forth with a partner.

preschool or kindergarten age music students in class

Photo courtesy of Nicole Guimaraes

Nicole Guimaraes presented “Making the Band: Modern Band in the K-3 Classroom” at the 2022 NAfME National Conference in National Harbor, Maryland.

About the author:

Nicole GuimaraesNicole Guimaraes currently serves as the K-2 General Music Teacher at Mount Daniel Elementary School in Falls Church City, Virginia. An avid proponent of the modern band movement, Nicole uses the Music Will curriculum in her music classes. She has presented on the subject at the Music Will Modern Band Summit, Georgia Music Educators Association Conference, NAfME All-Eastern, as well as in her own school district.

Nicole has been the recipient of several grants from organizations such as the Falls Church Education Foundation, Georgia Music Foundation, and Atlanta Opera. She is a 2021 Fund for Teacher Innovation Circle Fellow and a 2018 Fund for Teacher Fellow. With this fellowship, Nicole traveled to Nairobi, Kenya, where she collaborated with the Art of Music Foundation.

She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education and Tuba Performance from Ithaca College. She earned a Master’s Degree in Tuba Performance from Lynn University.

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The National Association for Music Education (NAfME) provides a number of forums for the sharing of information and opinion, including blogs and postings on our website, articles and columns in our magazines and journals, and postings to our Amplify member portal. Unless specifically noted, the views expressed in these media do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Association, its officers, or its employees.

April 2024 Teaching Music

Published Date

September 30, 2022


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September 30, 2022. © National Association for Music Education (

April 2024 Teaching Music
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