SIP 050: Lesson Plans for swim lessons

The importance of lesson plans.

Lesson plans are not necessary for everyone. Veteran and highly experienced teachers can do without them. However levels, move up criteria and overall progression planning is necessary.

You have to know where you want to go before you start moving forward.

Majority of swim instructors are inexperienced.

Park districts hire 15-22 typically, often employee’s first job. Temporary job, part time job, no long term growth, few continue teaching lessons past college age.

Small population of professional instructors.

Lesson plans provide the experience of veteran professional instruction to novices.

Swimming Ideas is an accumulation of 20 years of swim instruction experience and refinement.  The levels and testable skills point to swim teams. Underwater, body position, glides, arms, breathing, then outward to competitive strokes.

There are layers of complexity within the lesson plans:

  • Overall goal: swim well
  • Level goals: which order to teach in
  • Skill progressions: incremental steps to cross promote skills and maximize effort and time
  • Scripts and repetition to reinforce essentials.
    • Distill down the essential basics for each skill
  • Games and fun to practice skills

Novice instructors don’t have the “vision” for the life-cycle of the swimming participant. They typcially think in objective based narrow vision. They see swimmers that can’t do front crawl or go underwater and can creatively work towards that goal while ignoring other things, or over teaching and overwhelming young swimmers.

Teaching exact hand position and high elbow recovery to children that can’t keep their body straight or kick and move arms at the same time. Foolish and wrong time.

Start broad and then narrow focus.

Underwater (broad) > Glides and body position (posture, line, balance) broad > arm circles (more narrow) > turning head to the side to breathe (narrow) > arm recovery target; return to position 11 (narrow) > high elbow recovery (extremely narrow).

Without lesson plans the instructor may know all these steps but do them out of order or skip some entirely. More efficient and successful in less time to follow the progression.

Lesson plans also follow generally this “planning wheel from:


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We warm up by going underwater, introduce our lesson: “We’re going to practice front glides.”

We demonstrate.

Then we practice with repetition to learn the skill: 3 x streamline + kick

Push each individual to next step of progression based on their personal ability.

Play a game or do another skill that incorporates learned skill just done.

Lesson plans provide guidance. Standardize language. Allow for opportunity of games and deviation. Not designed to follow blindly forever. Generally designed for Skill, Skill, Game and each skill builds on itself and progresses in difficulty.

End objectives are the Level goals or testing criteria. Each step in the lesson plan drives towards that goal and gives multiple opportunities to practice, or test those skills.

Better swimming.
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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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