General Lesson Plans: When it’s time to let your instructors experiment.

The Swimming Ideas All Access Memberships provide many tools for your swimming lesson program. One of those tools is the general lesson plan.

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This guide is a good reference if you are using Swimming Ideas’ levels and lesson plans and will serve as a reference guide if you’re creating your own levels and lesson plans, or using a nationally recognized program like American Red Cross.

What is a general lesson plan?

We wanted to create a tool for swim instructors that have taught the daily lesson plans so many times that they didn’t need the explicit hand holding that comes from following a specific level and day format.

You, or your staff, will have taught swimming lessons for more than 4 weeks, or for 4 classes. The daily lesson plans that we offer certainly can be used over and over and over, and they’re extremely effective when done that way, but sometimes swim instructors and Aquatic Professionals want to iterate. They want to do things on their own. they want to take the lessons they learned from following a lesson plan and apply it in new and unique ways.

Enter the General lesson plans.

The general lesson plan is based on the concept of “buckets” or “banks.”

A bank is a group of games or skills that the instructor can pull from at will. It serves as a repository of items that the instructor can quickly look at for reference instead of inventing something on their own or relying on memory. Though, instructors can certainly use their imagination and own insight to create their own activities if they choose.

Here is a closer look on the General Lesson Plan Level 1 bank of activities:

Along the left hand side are the prescribed list of activities that serve as a strong suggestion for things you can do in a Level 1 class. The instructor should pull from one of those activities when creating their own lesson plan following the “Activity, Activity, Challenge” format or formula.

In addition to the “Activity, Activity, Challenge” format, the general lesson plan also allows for flexibility in terms of sequencing and timing. Swim instructors can choose the order of activities based on the needs and progress of their students. This allows for a customized approach that can cater to the specific abilities and goals of each swimmer.

The general lesson plan serves as a valuable tool for experienced swim instructors who have a deep understanding of the different activities and skills required at each level. It empowers instructors to create their own unique lesson plans that can be tailored to their students’ needs, interests, and learning styles.

By having a bank of activities to refer to, instructors can easily mix and match different games, drills, and challenges to keep their lessons engaging and fun. This flexibility enables instructors to adapt their teaching strategies and cater to the individual needs of each swimmer, ensuring a positive and effective learning experience.

Furthermore, the general lesson plan provides a framework for instructors to incorporate new ideas and activities into their lessons. It encourages creativity and innovation, allowing instructors to bring their own expertise and teaching style to the forefront. This not only keeps the lessons fresh and exciting for both instructors and students but also fosters a sense of ownership and pride in their teaching approach.

When should you transition from the Daily Lesson Plans to General ones?

  • Do your instructors lament that they’re bored doing the same things every week? Every lesson?
  • Are you going through the motions and barely paying attention to what you’re doing in each lesson? Not looking at the lesson plans?
  • Are parents complaining that things are “stale” too predictable, or boring?
  • Do you see an increase in behavior issues from long-term swimmers? This is a sign that they’re doing the exact same thing too many times.

Coupled with these warning signs during your lessons also look at the competence and your instructor’s ability.

Does the instructor understand the testable skills in each level, and can they create an effect swim lesson on their own?

If the instructor does not need to have everything spelled out for them, and you can trust them to create their own swimming lesson plan filled with logical progressions and activities that drive towards skill mastery, then they are ready to start using the general lesson plans as a guide to creating their own lesson plans.

The transition from the daily lesson plans to the general ones should be considered when certain warning signs begin to appear during your swimming lessons. If you or your instructors find yourselves bored and going through the motions, barely paying attention to the lesson plans, it may be time for a change. Similarly, if parents start complaining about the predictability and lack of excitement in the lessons, or if you notice an increase in behavior issues from long-term swimmers, it could suggest that the lessons have become too repetitive and stale.

It’s important to also assess the competence and ability of your instructors. Do they have a deep understanding of the testable skills in each level? Are they capable of creating effective swim lessons on their own? If the answer is yes, if your instructors no longer require the lesson plans to be spelled out for them and can confidently design their own lesson plans with logical progressions and activities that drive towards skill mastery, then they are ready to utilize the general lesson plans as a guide.

The general lesson plans offer a valuable tool for experienced swim instructors. They provide a framework that allows instructors to incorporate new ideas and activities into their lessons, fostering creativity, innovation, and a sense of ownership in their teaching approach. By referring to the bank of activities provided, instructors can mix and match games, drills, and challenges to keep the lessons engaging and fun. This flexibility enables instructors to cater to the individual needs, interests, and learning styles of each swimmer, ensuring a positive and effective learning experience.

So, when you start noticing the warning signs and feel that your instructors are ready, don’t hesitate to transition from the daily lesson plans to the general ones. This change will not only invigorate your swimming lesson program but also allow for personalized approaches that meet the diverse needs of your students.

What are the general lesson plan components?

Banks, Activity and Challenge Lists:

We reviewed the banks and lists earlier in this article, and there are two sections; Activities and Games.

In each section the intent is to give a general primer for things you could do in your lesson following the Activity, Activity, Game/Challenge formula. The instructor would pick from the list of activities or produce their own.

Our goal is to provide a reference to refresh memory and thoughts.

The bank serves as a guide and a template that instructors can look at for inspiration or use exactly as written

Location info and how to set up the class:

The section to the right of the skill bank at the top is the Picture and the general description of where and how the class should be organized or setup.

In this example we have Level 1 with a series of pictures placing various benches in lanes or next to a wall. This is intended as a visual reference for a teacher who might know what to do, but needs a reminder on how they should setup their class area.

Language and Tips section:

Below the image and the general setup, we have the Language and Tips section for instructors. This section is specific information and reminders that are relevant to a swim instructor who is about to teach that specific level.

In this example, for level 1, we see language that asks the instructor to say, “Do you want to go underwater?” and guidance like, “avoid questions.”

The INS tips are reminders for the instructor, in a general sense, to provide a great lesson. If we want the instructor to remember some crucial things before they start crafting their own personal lesson plan or running their class without the lesson plans, then they should remember these points:

  • Keep moving
  • Smile! Laugh! Have fun!

There are relevant tips to instructors so that they run a fun and effective class.

Testable skills and level focus information:

At the bottom of the page are the testable skills for that level and a specific guidance to focus the instructor. In this case, Level 1, the guidance is to build on earning trust and to encourage the swimmers to go underwater.

You can also see the testable skills above. These serve as guides and reminders to staff to focus on these core skills when crafting their own lesson plans. The general guide is packed full of useful information pertinent to running a high quality and fun and effective swimming lesson.

If you’re going to create your own General Lesson Plans then I would recommend you include most of the information we’ve outlined here.

The inclusion of your testable skills is a crucial component so that your instructors, when crafting their own Activity, Activity, Challenge class, can reference them and pick activities that drive towards those goals.


The Swimming Ideas All Access Memberships offer various tools for swim lesson programs, including the general lesson plan. This plan serves as a reference guide for swim instructors who want to create their own lessons or use a recognized program like the American Red Cross. It is based on the concept of “buckets” or groups of activities. The plan allows for flexibility in sequencing and timing, enabling instructors to customize their approach based on individual abilities and goals. It empowers experienced instructors to create unique lesson plans and provides a framework for incorporating new ideas. Transitioning from daily lesson plans to the general ones is recommended when instructors show competence in creating effective lessons and the current plans feel repetitive or stale. The general lesson plans foster creativity, innovation, and ownership in teaching, ensuring engaging and personalized learning experiences for swimmers.

Better swimming.
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