Beginners at your swim school

Parents must understand the important role they play in helping their child learn to swim. Teachers should encourage parents to take their child to the pool for exploratory play outside of the swimming lesson, but always, under strict supervision. Exposing children to a variety of different situations and depths of water is crucial for children to learn their capabilities and boundaries. Exploratory learning in particular is vital for frightened beginners. The more exposure children get to the water the more relaxed and confident they will become. Parents will also see a faster progression for their child if they are given an opportunity to play in the water outside of the lessons and therefore they often perceive the lesson to be more “value” for money. They must become willing partners in their child’s swimming progress.

Developing trust is the key with beginners. Teachers should always follow through with things that they tell their student’s. A perfect example of this which we often observe is: A teacher or parent, in deep water, tells the child, “Swim out to me, I won’t move.” Unfortunately, as soon as the child strikes out the teacher or parent immediately moves backwards extending the child before they are ready. This very often has disastrous results. It destroys the child’s confidence and progress.

Children are often reluctant to swim to an adult. This can sometimes be remedied by having the child swim to the pool’s edge or a ledge. They are more relaxed swimming to a solid object because they know it won’t move. Once you develop trust with your beginner swimmers they will progress move quickly.

Frequently changing teachers is also detrimental for beginner swimmers just as they gain trust in one teacher, another is thrust upon them. If you are serious about your career as a swimming teacher you must make a commitment to attend all teaching shifts. Don’t commit if you are not going to commit.

Water temperature will also influence children’s swimming lessons. An ideal water temperature for beginners is between 30 – 32 degrees Celsius, however, water temperature is very often outside the control of swimming teachers.

Beginner swimmers often feel the cold sooner than those students who are able to swim since they are less active, in order to remedy this, swimming teachers should plan lessons to ensure that their students are kept busy and active.

Teachers who teach in situations where the water temperature is not heated, may have to begin the lesson with land drills or water safety activities to break up the duration of the water time. They must also keep the class moving at all cost sometimes wave formation may be the best way to keep the whole class moving and active. They may also need to advise parents on how to appropriately dress their child to keep them warm. Encouraging children to stay down low in the water to avoid wind chill is also helpful.

Beginner learners respond positively to routines and familiar surrounds and situations, for this reason following a similar lesson plan from week to week, while gradually building on skills will help to progress students faster.

Children need success in the lesson so that they feel good about themselves and become eager to learn. The most powerful tool a teacher has in their arsenal is positive reinforcement. Giving genuine praise for attempts and triumphs will keep children interested in the lesson and want them to continue to improve. If a child is struggling with a more difficult skill, ask them to perform something simple that you know they can do and then praise their work. This will help to build confidence and make them willing to try again on a more difficult task. Remember teacher’s influence their students; make sure that you influence them in a positive way so that, you, as swimming mentor, influence a child’s love of and enjoyment of the water. Your expertise will influence a child for life.

Grouping children according to their ability levels will help with the smooth running of the class. Working with similar ability levels allows the teacher to:

  1. give equal attention to all students,
  2. control a smoother better balanced class catering to the student’s needs
  3. plan a lesson that is suitable for all,
  4. give maximum practice time in the lesson, and
  5. avoid behavioural problems

If there are instances where children need to be moved to a more appropriate class, teachers should be discreet and not create a situation which may be difficult for administration. Speaking with the deck supervisor or administration prior to notifying the parent is always recommended this may save embarrassing the parent or child.. If you first ensure that there is a suitable class available you will safeguard against a parent or child being disappointed. Once a suitable position is found then make a big deal of the child being too good for the class and you need to progress him further.

In summary, World Wide Swim School has received a variety of questions relating to beginners over the past 7 years. We have compiled a list of 5 popular questions to share with you and assist in delivering these lessons.

What activities should I used with first time swimmers?

  • Entries and exits in different areas of the pool
  • Walking, running and jumping in shallow water
  • Monkey or hand walking along the side of the pool
  • Pouring water over the face using cups and watering cans
  • Playing “ring a Rosie” and the class submerge together
  • Floating front and back with a board
  • Front and back floating for 10 seconds without a board
  • Teaching children to independently recover from a floating positing

What equipment might aid the child’s learning?

  • Plastic cups and watering cans
  • Kickboards and noodles
  • Floating mats
  • Diving rings

How would you ensure maximum practice time for beginners?

  • Inspect the teaching location
  • Use follow the leader or wave formation
  • Select an area of the pool that could assist in teaching the class eg ramp
  • Identify teaching equipment that will assist delivery eg noodle, mat
  • Plan the lesson remember to build swimming skills progressively
  • Utilise circuits and teach children to follow the leader
  • Identify class rules and expectations
  • Review your lesson after your shift to adjust requirements for the following week

How would you encourage children to put their face underwater?

  • Start with pouring water over the ears, back of the neck and shoulders building towards pouring water over the face
  • Encourage students to pour water over their own face and allow them to pour water over you the teachers face
  • Get children to put their ear underwater, lips, nose, eye brows and of course the full face
  • Use teacher and other class mates to demonstrate
  • Teach children to hold their breath first, before introducing bubbles
  • Use fun games like picking up rings to encourage children to put their face underwater
  • Never force or hold a child’s face underwater
  • Have them lie on their back in shallow water, ears submerged.

What sort of safety rules should I establish with my students?

  • Make sure children learn to walk around the pool, not to dive into shallow water
  • Teach children how to get in and out of the pool safely
  • Make sure children learn to look and listen while you a talking
  • It may be easier to have children sit outside of the pool while giving explanations
  • Always use simple instructions
  • Teacher personal safety rules like swimming with a buddy
  • Teach basic rescue skills like sending for help, throwing an object or reaching with an object and not putting yourself in danger


How do you keep swimmers interested and engaged? Share your ideas in the comments below.

To learn more about what you need to know CLICK HERE!

Laurie Lawrence


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