As a teacher of swimming and water safety you are entrusted with a huge responsibility. Not only do you have to ensure the safety of a number of children within your care but you also have to teach them in an environment that is conducive to learning. For this reason you need to put yourself in a position of strength where you can actively supervise as well as communicate effectively in order to facilitate the children’s learning. This can be a daunting task and may take some practice before beginner teachers become skilled in this role. This article will give some tips to the beginner teacher and remind experienced teachers on the importance of putting yourself in a position of strength to ensure a safe and productive swimming lesson.
The Pool Design
The pool design will have a huge bearing on how you conduct your swimming lesson. Ideally you will have access to shallow water where non swimming children are able to stand while they go through the first steps of the learn to swim process. In this instance it becomes easier to ensure the safety of the group and keep swimmers active and busy during the entire lesson. If children are kept busy and active the entire lesson, not only will the progression be more rapid but you will also avoid distractions and the disciplinary problems that arise as a result of boredom. During the first lessons teachers should spend time teaching children how to simply walk and circle the lane. This sets the scene for all future lessons but can also be a very effective water familiarisation activity. The teacher can then stand in the middle of the lane while all the swimmers circle them. In this instance the teacher can communicate with each child as they pass them and give them relevant feedback to progress their skills. Furthermore if the teacher is standing on the side they have excellent vision of all swimmers and can easily move their head from end to end while never having turned their back to any one child.
If you do not have access to shallow water then more time is required during the lesson planning and pool set up stages to get the learning environment right. The prepared teacher however can set up a very effective and safe learning environment which allows for maximum practice time in the swimming lesson for each child. For example, setting up a circuit style triangle lesson plan, can be very effective when teaching in deep water. The teacher can position themselves in the deep, facing the point where two pool walls meet. Once again the teacher has good vision of all students, the students follow the leader and do independent activities along each wall while the teacher can assist them over the deep water section and back to the safety of the pool side. Remember this maximum practice time avoids behavioural problems and helps children’s progression.
Teaching Non Swimmers
If you are teaching non swimmers in deep water and feel like you need assistance with supervision don’t be afraid to get the parents involved to the learn to swim lesson. Parents want to know how their child is progressing and will be delighted to be involved in the learn to swim process. Parents can help by simply sitting close by on the pools edge to supervise and help keep the group moving. However you may find yourself in a situation where you need a little bit more assistance from the parent and actually ask them to get into the water. For example with a very scared child they may feel more relaxed if Mum or Dad gets into the water with them. This can also help with giving equal attention to all children in the group as inadvertently the timid child requires much more assistance than the confident child.
Swimming and Water Safety Teachers
Swimming and water safety teachers must also become skilled at communicating with the class. Remember the motto KISS, keep it simple stupid! You must use simple instructions when working with kids. On every feedback form I given my staff I have to remind them of this. As teachers we all seem to talk too much. When teaching the group I always give 1 instruction and then wait for what I want. For example “Everyone stand up”. I say nothing else until everyone is standing. If everyone isn’t standing I repeat the same instruction “everyone stand up” until I get what I want. I then give a small praise, which could even be a non verbal cue, like the thumbs up. Remember; NEVER instruct the group if they aren’t looking at you. You must get their attention first. This may require sitting the group on the side of the pool to avoid them bobbing underwater.
We must always combine verbal instructions with visual cues. Remember the different types of learning including auditory, visual or kinaesthetic styles. If you combine all of these into your teaching approach then you will be in a position of strength to communicate effectively with everyone in your group. Therefore if you want children to do a perfect streamline, simply tell them “arms behind your ears, chin on your chest” while you demonstrate in the standing position. Ask them to “show you” and physically correct mistakes immediately and give simple positing praise. Ask someone to show the group a good one. Giving instructions like this is far too complex “put your back on the wall, because what we are going to do now is follow the leader, when the person in front of you goes I want you to get ready to go, we are doing our best streamline, put your arms up and make sure you are hiding your ears, I’m looking for the best one, James would you like to show the group”. While all these points are valid it is far too complex for little children to remember and they will become easily distracted. Follow the one instruction and wait rule to get what you want. Use simple key words and repeat them over and over to remind the children what you want. Talking in long sentences is not effective. But using key words, with visual cues, facial expressions, eye contact and simple praise work wonders!
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