Different ways to use your teaching space

Every swim school program and pool set up varies and as teachers, we must adhere to their ways and methods of teaching. For potentially new teachers and perhaps even a teacher who has been teaching for many years, it is important to always keep the brain active and try to think outside the box despite maybe being presented with limitations on hand. We need to be flexible and we need to embrace change if it should arise, perhaps you may be used to having the right-hand corner of the pool every Thursday at 4.30pm for the last 2 years. Then boom… you arrive in to do your shift on Thursday at 3pm to be told you now must take that class in an area in the middle of the pool. Wow, I’m sure we have all been here before, I know I have. Rather than focusing on the “oh NO!!! It’s the end of the world, I can’t teach my class there”, we encourage you to embrace the change and perhaps even get creative.

You MUST remain positive. Let’s face it, the kids who turn up for that 4.30pm class may even feel a bit put out and if they turn up to a grumpy teacher in a new teaching area, how do you think their lesson will run never mind how mum is going to react. So, let’s get some strategies in place by having a think about the different types of teaching formations we may be able to adopt…

Circling the lane

Circling the lane is where swimmers follow the leader and swim down one side of the lane and return on the other side of the lane. Swimmers can be moving as quickly as possible through this formation and don’t need to wait until the person in front finishes, rather leave just enough space so swimmer doesn’t catch the person in front. Circling the lane should enable 3, 4 or even 5 swimmers to be moving at once if done correctly, therefore achieving maximum practice time

Circling the lane is beneficial when you wish to give individual feedback/manipulation or have a look at individual capabilities. Circling can also help when having to look to see if a child is almost ready for the next level – you may need to alter the activity or distance for that one child which shouldn’t have an effect on the rest of the group.

Wave formation is where all swimmers move together at the same time on the teacher’s command. Ensure swimmers are lined up beside each other in the lane so they can go when instructed. Skills practice works well with this formation as teacher can observe all students at the same time. Races can also be incorporated into this wave formation activity.

This formation works particularly well in keeping all students moving at the same time and benefits skill acquisition due to the amount of repetitions. It is important that you keep your distances short so you don’t over tire your swimmers as this formation can push them to try harder to keep up with the group. Wave formation also helps if you have one or two overactive swimmers in your class that you need to keep moving.


Circuit formation is when you integrate a few different activities whilst moving around the perimeter of the lane and can provide lots of variation within your lesson. Once again, you as the teacher can zoom in on who needs assistance with any skills. Every circuit should always be centered around skill building eg push and float from the wall with the board, kick across with the board and face in the water, bubble and breathe drill on the way back. Circuiting the lane tends to work better if your teaching area is a little wider than a standard narrow lane.

Shallow vs Deep

Personally, I love changing up my teaching space if there is an opportunity to do so. One of my favourite areas to teach is in the deeper water. I feel that it is extremely important to ensure that your students can perform skills to the same standard in the deeper water. On condition that you have mobile benches or ledges, it is good to ensure your swimmers can become more confident at performing these skills and stepping outside their comfort zone with your support.

Changing up your teaching space and structure of your lesson can add so much value to your lesson. It is good to vary it, especially when parents or children may start to become complacent with the regular. We all need to accept and embrace the change as sometimes it is inevitable for example when you may have to have time off and another teacher steps in to take your lessons. More importantly, it is a reminder for you that you are capable, adaptable and therefore making you a more valuable asset within your team.

What are some of your favourite freestyle drills? Share in the comments section below.


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

Tara Martin

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Drills: Why do we use them?

Parents often ask swimming instructors about the progress of their children and what they are learning in swimming lessons. A common question we hear on the pool deck is:

Why do swimmers do so many drills instead of swimming laps?

The answer is simple. Swimming is not a simple skill to learn. It requires much repetition to master a skill correctly, and there are many skills combined to master a swimming stroke proficiently.

If swimmers try to put it all together without mastering individual skills they will end up with poor technique and less efficiency when they are trying to swim. Swimming is hard work and an inefficient stroke makes it harder still. I know I want my students to LOVE swimming and if it is too hard it won’t be enjoyable for them. Teaching correct technique will make swimming easy and fun!

Let’s take a quick look at the basic breakdown of freestyle and how much is involved to give you a better understanding of why drills are so important in the learn to swim process.


Body Position

Swimmers should be in a streamlined position (horizontally) on top of the water. This position is best for movement. A good floating body position should be mastered before attempting other skills.


Kicking action

This important propulsive skill assists swimmers to move fast through the water. Straight legs and relaxed feet that feel water pressure on the sole and the top of the foot while kicking up and down is the most effective technique. Swimmers require lots of practice to perfect this skill and may require physical manipulation to iron out any kinks or “bicycling” action that is commonly seen in early swimming development.


Arm movements

This propulsive skill also assists with movement in the water. It requires long strokes and a good feel of the water.


Side breathing

This skill allows swimmers to maintain a streamline position when breathing. It creates less resistance for swimmers when taking a breath and allows for continual forward movement.


Combination of skills

Swimming proficient freestyle requires combining all the skills mentioned above. If swimmers struggle with any of those individual skills, they will struggle with performing the full freestyle stroke. Therefore, doing drills to master individual skills is important.


Picture: This young swimmer performs a freestyle drill combining arm, leg, and breathing skills. Notice length of stroke and low breathing.


Keep in mind that swimming has completely different patterns of movement to land sports and walking or running in general. It takes time to build neurological pathways to the brain to create muscle memory. In addition to having to perform unfamiliar skills, it must be done while holding your breath, submerged in water. Talk about tough! Starting with simple skills or drills, gradually building on them and following teaching progressions will give you a better result, a lifelong skill and hopefully a love for swimming.


What are some of your favourite freestyle drills? Share in the comments section below.


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

Kate Lawrence

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Teaching Different Individuals Within Your Lesson

As teachers, we are challenged with many different situations every lesson such as, language barriers, frightened students, behaviour issues and various swimming abilities. Challenges like this could be all in one class.


Think about this:

  • How could I teach this class homogeneously?
  • What strategies, tools, would I implement?
  • How will I communicate effectively?
  • Where will I position myself so to effectively communicate to all?

I’m sure there are many more questions you could ask yourself – the possibilities are only limited by your thoughts!


Be Positive

Don’t get frazzled! I know it can be daunting for experienced and new teachers getting a combination like this in your class. Look at it like a challenge, be positive, and keep it simple.


Body Language

The body language we display is a form of non-verbal communication consisting of body posture, gestures, facial expressions, and eye movements. As teachers, we send and interpret such signals almost subconsciously. By learning how to read your students and parents body language this will help you to decide how to approach the lesson with confidence.


Verbal Communication

Ask questions!

Get to know your parents/students this helps with rapport and building trust. Talk to your colleagues and work together giving each other ideas to help with issues that may arise in our classes.


Here are 3 situations you may come across;

Scenario 1:

3-4yrs old class (Parent still in the water)

You have a 3-4 years’ class with 3 students and you’re in week 4 of the term and they are swimming right across the pool.

In week 5, 2 more children book into your class and they only can push and float out to parent a small distance.

Week 8 comes along and you have a new student who never been in the water before.


Strategies To Work With This Class

  • Group class according to ability
  • Teach the same skill though vary the skill for everyone so it’s achievable
  • Stay central, and be hands on to support each student
  • Make the lesson enjoyable for all


Scenario 2:

Beginner class:

You have a beginner Learn to Swim class with 4 students and for the past 6 weeks you’ve gained their trust. Swimmers are happy and can work the circuit, put their eyes in, hold their breath, push and float with eyes in with a board, back float with a board unassisted, but still not quite ready to move up to the next level. You then get a new child in the class that is very scared and crying. What do you do?


Strategies To Work With This Class

  • Engage in an activity in shallow water where all students can work on their breath control skills, make the activity fun use toys e.g. cups, rings. Communicate, build rapport and trust
  • Vary the activity for the new student in the class
  • Set achievable goals for all


Scenario 3:

Working With a Parent

You have a class (doesn’t matter what age or level). You notice a parent holding onto their child and is very nervous, overwhelmed about starting their swimming lesson. What would you do?


Strategies To Work With This Class

  • Communicate, listen, be empathetic to the parents concerns
  • Build rapport and trust with parent and child
  • Set skills that are comfortable for the parent to achieve with their child
  • Encourage and praise


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

Leesa Langdon

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Why is turning important?

Turning underwater is an important water safety skill. Here the baby learns to turn to safety – either the parent, ledge or side of the pool. In some swim schools this skill is initially introduced with a Humpty Dumpty song. As baby grows with age and physical capabilities they will learn to turn underwater and climb out at the side of the pool. While babies and young children must always be supervised in and around water, the ability to turn provides another layer of protection. Many parents who have been taking their child to regular swimming lessons have reported that this skill has proven to be vital for safety. A common scenario is an accidental submersion where a child slips or falls in to a body of water such as a pool, lake or pond, and the child has instinctively turned around and climbed out. Remember no child is drown proof but we do want to establish as many barriers to protect our children as possible. The ability to swim is the child’s last chance if the other barriers of pool fencing and supervision are compromised.


Prerequisite to turning

Turning requires vertical submersion and for this reason babies must have good breath control before we introduce this swimming skill. If the child does not have good breath control water can be easily forced up the nose causing discomfort and distress. For this reason make sure horizontal submersions and floating skills have been well established before introducing turning. If baby has been attending regular swimming lessons and parent is practising bath time conditioning daily, baby may be ready to perform turning as early as 8 to 12 months of age. It will be a long time before the child is capable of turning and climbing out of the pool independently however we can start the learning process. If you are only just commencing swimming lessons don’t worry – remember, it’s not a race. Learning to swim is a life skill for fun, fitness, health and safety. Regular exposure is the key and children can learn quickly if they get lots of water play. But remember they will also lose confidence and their capabilities if you stop taking them to the pool.


Types of turns

There are many different types of turns that we can incorporate into the swimming lesson. Initial turns are simply done to the caregiver. Here baby learns to turn underwater and independently pull up on caregivers t-shirt. We always encourage baby to pull up on a t-shirt or side of the pool rather than being picked up because we want to encourage their independence. Encouraging independence helps to teach children their capabilities in the water.

Turning can also be performed at a shallow ledge or step where they submerge from the ledge, go down and turn around and then return to safety. Here the child can rest in between submersions and have shallow water play and exploration. This shallow water play is actually vital for the child to develop an understanding of deep and shallow water. Under the parents guidance baby will learn their capabilities and enjoy playing in shallow water and even show caution as they wait for the parents cue to venture into deep water. Turning to a deck level pool or a high wall will further develop the turning skill. As the child’s physical capabilities grow they will compete the full progression by turning and climbing out of the pool independently.


Build the turning skill

Like all learn to swim skills, turning requires us to follow a building block approach. We should follow a progressive approach not only in the types of turns that we introduce but the micro skills within each type of turn. By building skills we can develop confidence and independence in the child and this results in them mastering the skill quickly and easily.


Progressive turns

1.    Turn to adult
2.    Turn to a shallow ledge/step and pull up
3.    Turn to a deep ledge/step and stand up
4.    Turn to deck level
5.    Turn to high wall
6.    Swim in 2 planes (turn in the middle of the pool and swim back to the pools edge)


Remember the pool design will also impact the types of turns you can do. For example there could be a rail for children to turn to. The teacher may even teach children to turn and climb up on a floating mat or turn/roll over and float if the side is too high to reach.


Building block approach

1.    Full assisted turn, parent picks up the child (left and right turn)
2.    Full assisted turn, child pulls up on the parents t-shirt
3.    Half unassisted turn (child is facing the side and only has a short distance to turn)
4.    Full unassisted turn back to the adult
5.    Start with shallow submersions and build towards deep underwater turns


Final thoughts

Turning is a great water safety skill to practice. We really want to “condition” children to return to safety. It’s like planning for an emergency. The more we practice the better because it will become an automatic response and avoid panic if a difficult situation does arise. In lesson familiar environments it’s a good idea to practice entries and exits. For example steep drop offs at the beach, creek or river can surprise a child and get them into a dangerous situation. Doing a few down turn arounds with a step up can be helpful to get them used to the new environment. Remember no one is drown proof but learning to swim certainly does give the best possible chance to children of all ages. Do not become complacent with supervision because drowning is a silent killer. Caregivers should develop in children not only a love for but a respect for the water.


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

Jane Lawrence

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5 Handy Tips for Behaviour Management

Teaching swimming can be a very exciting and rewarding experience but there are times when swimmers misbehave or have trouble remaining on task.  This can be frustrating for teachers and result in a less than perfect lesson.

Good teachers are committed to providing excellent quality lessons to each and every swimmer that attends their lesson.  An easy way to improve the quality of your lessons is to effectively manage the behaviour of the swimmers in the pool.

Specific behaviour that is recommended in swimming lessons should be actions that consider:

  • The safety of the swimmers in the lesson
  • The rules and regulations of the swim centre
  • The curriculum of the swim school


What is Behaviour Management?

Technique used for desired behaviour or actions within your lesson.

Behaviour management is way to control the class in a specific way.

This article discusses 5 easy strategies to assist teachers in managing the behaviour in their lessons.   Some are based on Behavioural Theorists who have conducted research and studies on behaviour and some are practical tips picked up while teaching swimming.  It is hoped that you will gain some interesting information or tips to try in your own swimming lessons.  You may also recognise some of these tips as something you are already doing in your lessons.


  1. Plan Ahead

Lesson planning will help classes run efficiently.  They should be well thought out and organised with flexibility to adapt skills or activities that aren’t quite working on the specific day.  When planning lessons think about specific swimmers within that lesson while considering:

Activities – If the teacher knows what skills will be taught and practised then lesson will transition well between activities and won’t give swimmers a chance to be distracted, off task, not listening or misbehaving.  A thorough lesson plan is an easy way to deal with undesired behaviour before it even happens.

Behaviour – Have a plan for how to combat unacceptable behaviour in your lesson.  World Wide Swim School has an in depth article on Behavioural Theorists who have done extensive studies and research on creating opportunities for appropriate and desired behaviour.  


  1. Set Boundaries and Follow Through

It may be that you have a class of overenthusiastic swimmers that can veer off task by becoming so excited that they start to lose focus.  You may have a disruptive child in your class for many different reasons.  Maybe you are filling in for another teacher and aren’t sure what to expect from the behaviour of the swimmers in that class.

An easy way to ensure desired behaviour in a class is to set boundaries early.  At the start of the class the teacher can say in a serious tone, “Here are my rules”, and express any specific rules that they would like followed within the lesson.  Let the swimmers know:

“If you can follow my rules and do the right thing for me we will have fun and”:

-learn new things

-dive for rings

-have some races

or pick an activity that the swimmers enjoy doing as a reward.

Once boundaries have been set and rules discussed, if a swimmers are unable to follow these rules the teacher should ensure that there are repercussions for this behaviour.  It may be that the swimmers have to miss out on the activity (as discussed above).  If boundaries are set and discussed it is the teacher’s responsibility to follow up and ensure that expectations are met.  If this doesn’t happen then the swimmers won’t have any incentive to do what is asked of them within the lesson.


  1. Keep Classes Moving

An easy way to manage the behaviour in a lesson is to keep the swimmers so busy that they are unable to think about acting up or doing things that aren’t acceptable.

Maximum practise time is not only important for skill acquisition but also assists in keeping swimmers moving and on task throughout the lesson.

Different ways to keep classes moving include:

  • Circling the lane (follow the leader fashion)
  • Wave formation (all swimmers moving together)
  • Circuits (follow the leader or practise activity and change on command)
  • Land drill (swimmers practising activities altogether on side of the pool)
  • Races


  1. Use Appropriate Rewards

Rewards can be a great incentive to manage swimmers behaviour within a lesson.   Different example of rewards can be:

Non-material (unable to touch or keep)

  • High five or fist bump
  • Activity that individual or group enjoys
  • Ring a champions bell on the side of the pool in front of peers
  • Get a photo taken to put on the wall at the centre
  • Demonstrate activity in front of the class
  • Social media shout out online

Tangible (physical reward to keep or take home)

  • Sticker or stamp on swimmers hand
  • Certificate of achievement
  • Pick a prize from a treasure box
  • Photo with management or teacher to take home

Teachers are encouraged to check with management for appropriate and acceptable types of rewards used at their specific centre.


  1. Ask for Assistance

If teachers are having a lot of trouble with specific classes or individuals and have tried many different tactics of managing the behaviour in their lesson that just isn’t working they may become disappointed or frustrated.  Remember your peers are a wealth of knowledge.  Ask for help!

  • Ask the instructors around you what helps them in specific situations.
  • Ask the parents of specific children strategies that work at home.
  • Ask the swimmer themselves how you can help their learning.

There may be a simple technique that you haven’t thought of yet that someone around you can point out.  Working as a team with parents, teachers and students can sometimes get a teacher the result they are looking for.

Obviously each student is an individual and may not respond to any one strategy.   Young children may also react differently depending on the day, mood and other extenuating circumstances.   Be patient and try different techniques and strategies in managing the behaviour of the swimmers in your class.  With time and practise you may use multiple strategies on multiple swimmers all in the one class.  Practise makes perfect so get out there and start today!


Comment here if you have any favourite tips or strategies for behaviour management in your classes.

How do you keep your children returning to classes?  Please share in the comments below.


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

Jane Lawrence

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Teaching Young Adults To Swim

Through much research such as online articles, journals, textbooks and teaching young adult swimmers myself, the outcome is unanimous – most young adult swimmers have a specific stroke or skill they want to learn.

The young adult is aged between 18-30 years and is usually highly motivated in learning how to swim. The first time a swim teacher meets their adult student some important questions to ask are


Why do you want to learn to swim? and What do you want to learn?

This helps the teacher understand the motivation behind the young adult wanting to learn to swim.

Some reasons I have come across are:

  • Want to be able to swim with their children
  • Medical reason
  • Need to be able to swim for a job they are applying for
  • Fitness and social interaction with peers and the community


As a teacher, it’s imperative to keep these goals in mind and explain the learning pathway on how to achieve this realistically. It is a common occurrence for this age group to struggle and become frustrated when they don’t master a skill or stroke straight away. Teachers need to remind the adult learner to relax, not to over analyse and be patient within themselves.


While teaching the adult swimmer you may come across some other barriers that effect their learning such as;

  • Language
  • Flexibility
  • Fear – not being able to breathe, failing, injury, environment, feeling out of control


By communicating with your adult swimmer and learning about their goals, past experiences and feelings about water, you will be able to design a lesson plan together that will be achievable.In turn, your swimmer will increase their motivation to learn.

Teaching adults can be a rewarding experience for teachers.

Unlike many children, adults attend lessons because THEY want to, not because someone else (parents/guardians etc) want them too.

This makes them more dedicated to learning new skills, keeps them motivated and excited throughout the journey and willing to celebrate successes along the way.

Adult swimmers also have the thought processes to set goals and work towards them slowly but surely.

Teachers will receive great satisfaction from the work and results that their adult swimmers achieve throughout their learn to swim journey.


How do you keep your clients returning?  Please share in the comments below.


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

Leesa Langdon

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Preparing for the Cooler Months

It’s really important to educate and inform swimmers and their parents about how to prepare for the cooler months ahead. By giving them information on what to do before, during and after this will make a big difference mentally and physically for them to continue swimming.

Preparation for Before Swimming Lesson

If a swimmer is cold prior to the lesson it can be difficult for that swimmer to warm up during the lesson. Inform your swimmers and parents to:

  • Come to your lesson wearing your swimmers under your clothes
  • Stay warm and dressed until a couple of minutes before the lesson starts
  • Prep clothing and have towels out ready for when the lesson is finished

During Swimming Lesson

It’s important for the swimmer to keep mobile during the lesson as this circulates the blood in the body to keep warm.

  • Design your lesson plan to keep your students moving throughout the lesson
  • Remember to never express verbally or non-verbally to the swimmers or parents that you are or it’s cold and stay positive and up-beat throughout your shift
  • If you see a student feeling a little cool, give them ideas to keep warm.

For example:
 Wear a singlet, T-shirt under or over their swimming togs
 Wear a swimming cap to keep the head warm
 Wear a swimming suit
After Swimming Lesson

    Remind your swimmers and parents to wear warm clothing home after their swimming lesson by wearing:

  • Warm clothes e.g. singlet, long sleeve shirt and tracksuit pants
  • Dry their hair properly before leaving the pool
  • Wear something on their feet to keep them warm

What are some techniques you use to keep your swimmers moving and engaged during lessons? Share in the comments below.


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

Kate Lawrence

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5 Tips to Achieve Maximum Practise Time

Swimming instructors know that the key to learning to swim is through lots of practise and repetition.  And while we can encourage our swimmers and their parents to attend multiple lessons per week, it isn’t always possible with children today participating in more activities than ever before.  Swimming lessons are just one activity along with dancing, soccer, netball, tennis – you name it, that need to be scheduled into the week for children in today’s fast paced society.  And we mustn’t forget scheduling the activities of any siblings.  Some parents are superheros the way they manage to fit everything in. Knowing it’s not always possible for children to attend more than one lesson per week, it is so important to make that lesson count.  Make sure that swimmers get the most out of their time spent in the water by keeping them moving, active and learning for the entirety of the lesson.

Here are 5 tips to help you achieve maximum practise time in your classes to ensure swimmers continue to improve.

  1. Plan your lessons

Lesson planning allows you to be organised with equipment and activities.  Knowing what is coming up next in your classes will assist in transitioning quickly from one activity to the next with little or no downtime.   Swimmers won’t be waiting around while you think about what to do next or while you retrieve equipment needed for the next activity or drill.


  1. Use parents or carers for assistance

Parents, carers or guardians can be your best friend in classes where swimmers still need someone in the water with them.  Communicate with swimmers’ parents about what is required for each new activity in the class and move around the teaching space to oversee activities and provide feedback.   This technique basically allows swimmers to receive a 1 on 1 lesson and they can be moving for the duration of the class rather than waiting on the side for their turn with the instructor.  Using the parents to discipline, reason with or comfort their child if they are being disruptive or upset also allows you to keep the rest of the class moving and active while they get settled and ready to swim.


  1. Assess and group swimmers by ability

Make sure any new swimmers are assessed prior to joining a group class and group swimmers with others of a similar skill level as best you can.  This will limit the amount of 1 on 1 time required by the instructor.  If a timid beginner joins a group of confident swimmers even the most experienced instructors will struggle to keep the class moving.


  1. Choose appropriate activities and teaching techniques

Be creative and mindful of the activities you choose to ensure swimmers are kept moving and actively participating for the duration of the class.  Activities that are too advanced for swimmers will make it hard to keep swimmers moving as they may require a lot of assistance.  Activities that are too easy may bore swimmers and cause them to be distracted and want to play around in the lesson.  Effective teaching techniques for keeping swimmers active and moving in class include circling the lane or follow the leader, wave formations, land drill, activity circuits and races.


  1. Be enthusiastic

Be enthusiastic and create a fun learning environment where swimmers want to participate and show you how hard they are working and how much they have improved.  Not only will it make swimming more fun for the class, it will make your job as an instructor a rewarding one.



What are some techniques you use to keep your swimmers moving and engaged during lessons?  Share in the comments below.


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

Emma Lawrence

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What is swimming in 2 planes?

Swimming in two planes is an important water safety skill. When teaching swimming in two planes we marry two skills together, the vertical safety turn and the horizontal swim back to safety. This exercise is important for water safety because children learn to turn in deep water in the middle of the pool and swim a short distance back to the safety of the pools edge. You can see how this activity builds on the simple “Humpty Dumpty” down turn around skill where the child turns and climbs up on the parent, ledge or edge of the pool.

Prerequisite for swimming in 2 planes

Before attempting this exercise, swimmers should have good breath control and the ability to perform both the vertical turn and the horizontal swim separately. It’s important that swimming teachers carefully evaluate the individual readiness of each child to determine the suitability of this skill. In a class situation you may have a variety of ability levels with some children ready before others. Don’t try and rush children before they are ready. This exercise can be performed on top of the water with no submersions for those children who are not yet ready. In this instance you can keep the group working together but meet the individual needs of everyone in the class.

Educate parents

It’s important that parents understand the building block approach used to teach this safety skill. If parents understand the steps involved and how to recognise when their child is ready to move to the more advanced skill you will achieve best results. It may be advantageous to line the class up in order from confident swimmers to timid learners. You can start by showcasing the swim in two planes and what everyone is working towards. Then you can then set smaller goals for each subgroup within the class. For example, 2 children may be doing it on top of the water, 2 might be doing an underwater turn but an assisted above water swim, while 2 are performing the full exercise with their parents guidance.

Building skills

When teaching new skills it’s important to follow a progressive building block approach. Initial attempts will be fully assisted by the caregiver. We hold the child under the armpits not by the torso. This will allow us to position the child’s centre of gravity and make them feel secure, not overbalanced in the water. Give a clear verbal cue to the child while you physically move them through the action on top of the water. For example “down, turn and swim to the ledge, Harry ready go”. Then perform a quick vertical turn, use an exaggerated tip into the horizontal plane and swiftly walk the child back to the ledge. Allow the child to climb up and celebrate the success. You can perform this activity in both the left and right hand turning directions.

If you’re holding the child softly and observing their body language you will soon be able to recognise when they are ready to progress. From here you can build to an independent turn with and assisted swim to the side of the pool. It’s very easy for the parent to gently push the child by the bottom back to the side of the pool. Avoid guiding children by the back of the head. Not only can this be frightening but it also results in the child trying to lift their head which in turn interrupts the correct body position in the water.

Finally we can move to an independent drop, turn, swim and pull up. Always ensure that the adult is carefully watching the child and ready assist if necessary. For example if you observe the child blow out bubbles, shake their head or wriggle, they are likely to be running out of breath. In this instance the parent should remain calm but certainly assist them back to the side of the pool. The ability to read body language is extremely important in teaching swimming. If children ever show signs that they aren’t comfortable parents and teachers should revert to an easier skill in order to build the child’s confidence.

As you can see swimming in two planes is a great water safety skill and is easy to adapt for diffident ability levels within a class. When teaching swimming in two planes always remember to build skills and work to the individual readiness of the child. By marrying two skills together we are slowly building the swimmers skill set which results in safer swimmers  with independent capabilities. This confidence in the water does not mean we can become complacent with supervision. Swimming teachers must always communicate to parents the importance of supervision and the need to be able to respond quickly in an emergency.

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

Laurie Lawrence

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The Important Of Teaching Swim Arounds

Swim arounds are an important part of the Learn to Swim process.  Swimmers who are confident in their swim around abilities will have a great foundation in their swimming abilities in the water.

What exactly is the Swim Around skill??  Great question.  Let us explain…

Swim arounds start in a safe place in the water (a ledge, on the side of the pool or somewhere where the swimmer can touch the bottom).   The swimmer then ventures out into the deeper water turns around and returns to safety.  In effect they “swim around” an object/person or in the water and return to that safe place from which they started.

It’s important to note that swim arounds and turns are 2 different skills.

Turning is done in the vertical plane where swimmers rotate on an axis that is straight up and down.  Their head is at the top of the water and there feet are pointed to the bottom of the pool.  They can jump or fall in the water spin (or turn) around and return to safety.

Swim Arounds are done in the horizontal plane.  So a swimmer is laying flat in the water and kicking and paddling out and around to return to safety.   Their head and feet are usually both at the top of the water and they use their propulsive skills to kick and paddle around to safety.

Why Teach Swim Arounds?

  • Educates swimmers the different between deep and shallow water
  • Gives swimmers the opportunity to change direction in the water
  • Allows swimmers to feel safe in one element while getting the courage to explore deeper areas and return to safety
  • As swimmers become more confident with swimming outside of lessons, they may encounter objects within larger bodies of water (creeks/dams/ocean).  They may need to swim around these objects to get to safety.
  • If swimmers fall into the pool away from the wall they may float/glide so far away from the wall that they will need the skills to move through the water in different directions to return to the wall/ledge safe spot for climbing out.
  • Some home pools have higher walls/rock gardens on the side.  If swimmers are unable to hold on/grab these walls they will need to swim to a different area.  Swim arounds prepare them for this situation.

When teaching swim arounds in your classes remember to start slow.  Build the skill slowly so that swimmers can feel comfortable every step of the way.  Start with very short distances.  Once swimmers are comfortable increase the distance for more difficult learning opportunities.

Use toys for very young swimmers.  The toy can show the young swimmer the path to swim and then they can try (with our without parent assistance).  Remember to use toys with a swimming purpose.   Give the swimmer a chance to be rewarded with the toy as they finish their swim but try not to get too distracted by the use of toys in your lesson.

Good luck teaching swim arounds as a water safety and propulsive skill to swimmers of all ages!

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


Laurie Lawrence


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