Having a general, predictable routine in the voice studio is part of what I call the "culture of a voice studio." When students start taking lessons from you, whether it is your private studio or at a school, they need to learn how your studio functions--they want to know what they can predict. Having a general structure to lessons creates a sense of security for you and your students and avoids chaos.
Over this past school year I've implemented a beginning-of-lesson-routine that has helped many students focus and relax when they enter their lessons--they take 3 slow, deep breaths before we do anything else. There are always a few students who try to rush through these breaths, and I have them start over and take slower breaths.
These 3 breaths serve multiple purposes:
1. The student turns off the outside world and turns on to their voice lesson.
2. The student will calm and relax.
3. How the student breathes gets you an idea of where they are that day, breath-wise as well as psychologically and emotionally speaking.
4. It creates a "habit of entry;" just as you know your routine when you get home at night of taking off your shoes and putting them in a specific spot, putting your bag next to the door and the keys in the drawer, and plugging in your phone, the student will create the same habit of "enter studio and take 3 breaths, relax & focus."
5. If the student isn't warmed up yet, s/he will do a better job of warming up in the actual lesson as her/his breathing is already going strong.
The rest of the lesson follows a general plan, much like I do in foreign language instruction, with room for spontaneity:
A. 3 slow, deep breaths
B. Warm-up (if the student hasn't sung yet)
C. Review of last week's lesson (could be 2 minutes, could be most of the lesson if it was a difficult topic)
D. Additional materials/new song
The wrap-up always takes a different form, as it depends on what we were able to accomplish in the lesson. If there was a new topic introduced, or a new exercise, I have the students tell me the focus of the day's lesson in their own words. If we were working on a difficult passage, I say something like "To wrap up today, let's sing through this passage once more with a focus on XYZ." It signals the end of the lesson but doesn't make the student feel like she's/he's being kicked out the door.
The culture that the routine and general plan give students a sense of security that they know what to expect and also that the plan is flexible enough to allow for auditions that pop up, tough weeks, and times when they need to stick to the plan and then get out the door to go on to their next activity.
And since the culture develops from year to year, students who begin lessons with you and stay for a longer period of time know exactly how your studio works, yet neither you nor your students get stuck in a rut of predictability. The flexibility in having a general plan keeps things flexible with room to grow!
How do you create routine in the lessons you teach? Your comments are welcome!