Building swim lesson plans

You can create fun and effective swim lesson plans with some basic tools, but if you want to really increase your game, improve your program and get the most out of your swim lessons and developmental swim practices the best thing to do is join the Developmental Swim Practice subscription so you can mix and match, post and publish your own lesson plans using our custom drawings and illustrations.

Leverage our challenges and games, our activities and lesson plans. You can print them out and laminate them for your swim instructors, or post them on the website by logging in and using a TV and stand on deck.

Challenges with pictures.

Create a bank of skills.

Before you begin doing this on your own, create a bank of skills and activities. Identify the things you want your swim instructors doing in the water.

I have a list of games and songs, a series of activities and actions that I want each lesson to hit.

With a picture, we can illustrate exactly what we want in an immediate fashion instead of writing it out or getting in the water ourselves to demonstrate.

If I want my swim instructors teaching front glides in a certain way, I can post this picture to illustrate that point:

They can intuitively see exactly the options they have for doing a front glide based on that swimmer’s specific level of ability.

Not everyone in a “level 1” class will need the hands on shoulder supported front glide. Some might be able to put their face in the water for a brief moment in the “hands in hand” position.

We leave that up to the instructor to decide which to use and which is appropriate. The teachers should be moving up the scale of incremental progression pushing against whatever the next logical step is for that swimmer’s progress.

Create that bank of skills.

Here is a picture of a few of the skills I’ve built up over the last three years writing swim lessons using Trello and WordPress (the platform this website is run on) to push out practices and lesson plans for my assistant coaches and swim instructors.

You can use an excel sheet,, or your own custom website.

The first step is to identify what you want to teach and write them all down, like doing a brainstorm of swimming skills and activities.

How will you deliver it?

After you create your swim lesson pieces, the steps, and blocks that will place like bricks into your plans identify how you’re going to give that information to your swim instructors and assistant coaches.

How will you deliver your lesson plans? The easiest way is to print off a sheet, laminate it and give it to them so they can read and use it in the water.

Laminated sheets are effective, but they make your instructor look like they don’t know what they’re doing if they’re clutching a piece of paper and reading it while the kids are jumping on the bench.

You can have them memorize the lesson plans in advance, but that requires more work.

For swim coaches, I write out practices on this website under the “practices” tab and give them a login to see the day’s activities. They can reference their phone at any time between sets and deliver the information to the swimmers.

Lately, I’ve been using a TV with a monitor on our pool deck, using the built-in Amazon Fire software and Firefox to access and pull up the day’s practices. We’ve also been using it for lesson plans, though we’re limited in offering 1 level or lesson at a time because right now we only have 1 screen.

It has been incredibly effective. I love it.

Decide how you’re going to deliver your lesson plans or practices. Will you print it out every day? Will you drag and drop content and build your practice off of repeatable pieces like an assembly line? Or will you use general lesson plans like these:

With general plans, you put a bank of skills and activities then give your instructor a formula: Activity 1, Activity 2, Challenge, repeat.

Daily Building

Putting together a swim lesson plan every day can be a challenge. It can be time-consuming and difficult. That is why so many people opt in to let someone else do that hard work then hand out laminated sheets.

I get it. Custom lesson plans every day is a daunting task and many of us don’t have the time to do it.

Using excel and word, or other creator programs is slow work and clunky. It can be a challenge to constantly be producing new material for your instructors to use.

Once the hard work creating what you want to teach is finished then you have to consider how its going to look. You want your plans to be readable, effective and immediate, reducing the amount of time people are staring at sheets in the water while their swimmers are doing nothing.

I find that brief recognizable shorthand like, 3 x SL + 3 FR easily fits into the format that we run our lessons and is quickly identifiable for our instructors to understand the gist of what is going to happen.

Once we teach our instructors the format of lessons then we can swap out the pieces.

You can change those daily pieces within that framework by leveraging the built-in post builder of this website. Sign up for the Developmental Swim practices program and you can create your very own swim lesson plans to post on this site. Log in, print them off, show them off, or post them to phones and tv’s anywhere. If your device can get online you can share this content.

Related Articles

Swim Lesson Templates and Plans: Learn How and When to use them and Create your own

Think of a lesson plan for swimming as the roadmap for your instructors to follow. Lesson plans are the guideposts along the path to a successful swim lesson. They help with the class’s flow and skill transitions. With a well written lesson plan you’ll naturally flow from one swimming skill into the next. You’ll gracefully move from underwater activities to glides to arm strokes


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