Effective Teaching – Series 2 of 3

How do you create “fun” in your lessons?

This is the second in a series about how to teach swimming effectively. You can use these emails to run your swim lesson program, or to go about creating your staff training. Our first email last week was about two key points:
  1. Fill your practices/lessons with really good stuff that works on something specific.
  2. Your participants should have intent and a goal for every action they do during lessons/practice.
Saying those two things seem really simple and easy to do, but in actual practice it is very difficult to maximize your time and effort. An even bigger challenge is how do you get 3-7 year old swimmers totally engaged? I think that is one of the most difficult things ever!
Fortunately we’ve spent a lot of time teaching lessons, going to training sessions, and learning about HOW to learn. This is the second part of a series in how to teach swimming well. We had a sports performance consultant come to our program and let us know what we did well, and how we can improve. Here are some more highlights.
Session 2
Play games to get results
Let’s connect #1 from last week, “Stuff your practices with juicy awesome” to today: Romp with games to learn something new. When we play games and sing songs during swimming lessons or at swim team, we’re not just wasting time to create a fun experience with the swimmer. It is not some nebulous hippy feel good action. We are not wasting time with our games. Every game and song provided in the SLI swim program on the lesson plans, the workbook, and the website are all designed with a purpose and a goal.
One of the biggest swimming instructor challenges is to find and create games that work well to teach a specific swimming skill.
You can use our swim lesson plans to do this thinking for you, or if you want to try something new, follow these four steps to creating your own exciting and purposeful exciting swim games:
  1. WHO are you working with? Are you teaching a class of 3 year olds to go underwater or are you working with 5 year olds on bilateral (both sides) breathing? Know who you intend on teaching first.  You can define this as an age group, or an ability level.
  2. WHAT do you want to accomplish? Do you want to work on freestyle breathing, turning your head to the side, or going undewater? What is your primary goal. After defining who you are going to play your game with, determine what you actually want to do. Remember, connect to last week’s #2: Have a goal for every activity. You know your audience, you know your intent, next…
  3. SMALL steps to reach that goal.  Be specific, define exactly the smallest chunks or steps you can walk easily up to your desired result. For example. I want to play a game with my level 1 class designed to encourage them to go completely underwater. During that game I want to begin with putting shoulders in the water, then move to lips in the water, then put eyes in the water. Finally, at the end, we’ll attempt to put the whole head underwater. Break down your end goal into the 3 steps previous to it and walk through it during the course of the game.
  4. THINK of something different to achieve your goal, but make it challenging.  Ask yourself how you can turn your goal into a challenge. Make achieving your goal the reward or the end result. Imagine to yourself what you can do to make whatever goal you established in #2 a challenge or a key component in overcoming your challenge here in #4. Here is an example: We have our level 1 class that we want to go underwater. The game will be to grab rings from the bottom of the bench. The bench lets our swimmers stand in waist deep water. Different color rings have different points, but can only be pulled off the bottom if the swimmer puts a different body part in the water. Blue rings require shoulder in, red rings require a lip in the water, and yellow rings require the eyes to go underwater. The swimmer that gets the most points wins the game and gets a free motorboat ride from the teacher.  Turn your goal into a challenge and you’ll be surprised how your imagination will put together the toys you have access to and the people you’re teaching into an exciting fun game.
Check out our swim lesson plans
Motivation moves bodies
Why do we play games? and how do we actually produce mindful practice. Aside from engaging your creativity to invent a new and exciting purpose driven game, the most difficult thing to do when teaching is to motivate your participants. The best way for someone to learn or get better at something is for that person to WANT to do it, and to be internally motivated to actually work hard at practicing something. Our goal as swim instructors and as swim teachers is to give and produce that motivation within our swimmers. Playing games are a good way to create momentary sideways motivation. Generally participants want to succeed in challenging games. Most people want to do well, and if we craft our games in an interesting, challenging, yet appropriate and achievable way, our participants will be motivated to do well in them.
We can motivate our participants a few ways:
  1. Visual demonstration and engraving.  If we make our goals clear, concise, and achievable, and our participants are able to visually see what we want them to achieve, they’ll be more likely to both understand what we’re asking and be motivated to attempt it. They will say to themselves, “Oh, i can do that!” If we give our swimmers a good example they can see that end goal, and know it is something they could eventually do. By engraving, I mean this very thing. The swimmer or participant can see themselves doing the goal and therefore that visualization inside their head from their perspective makes that goal more achievable.
  2. Create a connection with your swimmers. Swim instructors that are engaged with their class, that know their participant’s names, and are excited to be there create connections. They are the teachers that their participants talk about at school and to other people. When our swim instructors smile at their participants and are full of energy and excitement, joyful and happy, our swimmers succeed at faster rates and improve better. When we have dour faced and grumpy swim staff our lessons suffer and the participants are less likely to do challenging new things. Create an emotional connection, and you’ll have an opportunity to motivate your swimmers, and get results.
To recap:
1) Fill your practices with goal minded activities.
2) Every action in practice/lessons should have a clear goal.
3) Play games to teach.
4) Motivate your participants to get results.
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