One of the swimming forums that I follow on Facebook today was discussing whether swimming teachers should write lesson plans for every swimming lesson and some teachers were even saying it was lazy not to write plans.
I personally (on the whole) don’t write lesson plans and I don’t necessarily follow schemes of work either. When I first became a teacher, I used to be religious in writing a plan and following the scheme of work, but over time, I have learnt (for me) it isn’t necessarily right to follow something that can feel quite rigid. Yes, lesson plans can be a security blanket for a teacher without experience and it makes sure that they cover all that they
need too, but if you really know the children that you are teaching, you can adapt the lesson to them as the lesson goes along.
What I prefer to do is to have a copy of the tick sheet for the certificate that each individual child is working towards. Each child has two lines each (so that I have to assess the skill more than once to make sure it is a skill and not a stroke of luck) and I also have a very clear guideline in my head of what children should be able to do at each level. I suppose you could call this my lesson plan and scheme of work, you could also say that I teach to test. However you look at it, it works really well, as the tick sheet charts the progress of each child, it highlights where the struggles are for either the individual or the whole class (and if it’s the whole class I know I need to do something about it!). These tick sheets are with me the whole time and I use them to show the parents what the child has achieved, how far they have come and if there is any queries about putting faces in the water, jumping etc. I have an official document that I feel that the parent really cannot argue with. If a child comes to me and says the lessons are too easy, I can use the tick sheet they are currently on and the ones following to fast track to them, whilst making sure that there are no holes in their swimming knowledge. Tick sheets make me able to really personlise the lesson to set individuals.
Each child is an individual and cannot be painted with the same brush. They won’t all understand the same drills, depending on their age and level of intelligence. Some might have brilliant backstroke, but a rubbish breaststroke. In this case, I would give the swimmers more time on breaststroke (I usually try and incorporate breaststroke into every lesson for the more advanced swimmers) than I would backstroke. The children can have more of an input into the lesson and I get frequently asked “Can we do ….?” This leads to a more friendly relaxed environment for both student and teacher and gives the swimmer some responsibility for their own learning as they can give input.
The only lesson plans that I do have are for STAnleys 1 – 3. These have been tried and tested and each tick sheet is run over two lessons. The paperwork for the lesson plan is laminated, is designed on the circuit principle and is extremely detailed. The children probably look like they are just playing, as we have made laminated cartoon characters that fit specific tasks and have bought extra equipment to make the lesson plan run as smooth as possible. But if you trace the origins of these particular lesson plans back to where they started, you will find yourself with the tick sheet!
I used to panic if I didn’t cover everything in the lesson plan and that made me a stressed out teacher and that’s not good for the kids. Now that I’ve thrown the lesson plan out of the window, I’m happier in the knowledge that it’s good to be flexible.