Catering for varying abilities

children treading water during swimming lessons 

Often as a swim instructor you will be presented with a group of children who are in varying stages. Whilst this may at first appear to be a daunting task, with a little patience and flexibility it can be easily managed.

First things first, get to know each child and their individual ability and skill level. How many different stages do you have within the class? Does anyone have an injury? Once you understand the group of individuals you are working with it is easier to break the lesson down to suit them.

If there are different stages within the class, won’t those children in the higher stages get bored? Definitely not! Having children within the lesson in lower stages than them gives them an opportunity to be used for demonstrations or extend themselves further. Likewise, those in the lower stages may be encouraged to work that little bit harder in the lesson.

Teaching the same stroke to a class with students in different stages is as simple as breaking up the stroke into progressions. All you need to do is allocate the progression that suits the children you have, and if a certain child is showing confidence in the drill, move them up to the next progression! See our example below for freestyle:

Lower stage

Freestyle arms no breathing

Middle stage


Freestyle arms and breathing to one side on the board

Higher stage


Freestyle arms breathing both ways on the board

Be sure to keep each child encouraged and provide individual and group feedback that encourages them to keep going, without worrying about those in other stages in the class. Try not to focus too heavily on the differences between your students, and focus more on having fun yourself so that your students do too! 

Great ideas for your next lesson!

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