Practicing is something that is an absolutely necessary part of learning an instrument or becoming a better singer. Students at different levels may practice for different lengths of time, but certain principles remain the same:
Practice does not make perfect; practice makes HABIT. Practice WELL at all times. If you practice poorly, it takes a long time to learn to correct the mistakes.
Practice frequently, not in marathon sessions. Learning an instrument involves developing muscles that are not used for anything else, and should be exercised for shorter periods of time frequently - you wouldn't work out for 2 hours on Saturday and then lay on the couch all week! Also, anything you do every day will eventually become quite easy.
Practice in a quiet place. If there are distractions, it will be hard to focus on practicing. Also, it is a good idea to have an area with a chair and music stand already set up - the longer it takes to get ready to practice, the less frequently students will do it.
Here are some procedures for a successful practice session:
Start with long tones. These will warm up/loosen your lips, reed (if applicable), and instrument. While playing long tones, focus on achieving a full, beautiful, focused sound.
Play some scales and technical exercises. Junior high and high school students should know these, but 5th and 6th graders can often find some in the back of their book. Play these slowly at first, then work to increase the speed gradually.
Practice music for lessons or band. Practice the things that are hard - break music down into very small chunks to practice slowly at first, then gradually speed them up and put them together into larger pieces. Don't play things quickly until you can play them accurately at a slower tempo! This is just practicing an incorrect way of playing!
For students who need to practice reading notes, go to http://www.musictheory.net/exercises/note. There is a button at the top right which allows you to customize the exercise so that it only will ask you to name notes that you should know. It will keep track of the number you get right and wrong, your percentage, and your time - send a screenshot or a verification code to Mr. Amerson or Mr. Bable if you think you did a great job!
If you like the Music Theory exercises online and want to do it on your iPhone or iPad, the Tenuto app is $3.99 and lets you complete the exercises without requiring internet access.
To play along with fun sheet music for free, check out the page on Chromatik.