By Foss Swim School
In swimming, as with any skill, there’s a difference between learning a thing and actually doing it. Helping nurture young swimmers through that process takes passionate, engaged teachers, praise and reinforcement from parents – and lots and lots of practice!
The Foss Swim School curriculum has been purposefully designed to make repetition of certain activities a core part of how we teach. If you’ve watched a class closely over a series of weeks, you’ve probably noticed it. In fact, sometimes parents ask us why we sing the same songs, play the same games, and practice the same skills week after week. Isn’t that just delaying learning?
Our answer is that repetition is the KEY to learning. But what is being learned, and how the repetition takes place, varies from age to age and level to level. Here’s what’s happening “under the surface,” as it were, when your student does the same thing in the same way.
- Babies and toddlers: Learning to trust
The most important lesson for our youngest swim students is simply: Water can be fun! At this developmental age, there is no substitute for experience. What is familiar is comfortable, and once a child is comfortable, they can begin to have fun. Anything new or that breaks the pattern is suspect until proven otherwise. So we create a class that does the same thing, in the same order, to help these children build a mental picture of what is happening and what will happen next. And having parents participate just strengthens the link between water, family, and fun!
- Kids and young swimmers: Learning muscle memory
As swimmers progress, we can introduce more new ideas – but still not too many at once. The Swim Path® program breaks each stroke and lesson down into bite-size pieces that fit together like a sequencing puzzle. To get the timing right, however, each separate motion needs to be second nature. Having a student repeatedly swim a one-armed backstroke, or just the kick part of a freestyle, builds up that muscle memory so the student can later move all those body parts in unison without thinking. Of course, at this age, “new” is fun too, so teachers break the classes up differently – but always come back to the parts that need practice.
- Older swimmers: Learning to push
Once all the parts are in place, it’s time to build endurance and ability. Repetition is the key. Not only does it lock in the lessons learned earlier, it gives swimmers a chance to push their own personal boundaries, whether it’s swimming faster, or further, or finding ways to swim easier and with less effort. Each time, they build up their abilities just a little more. Only by pushing themselves, then coming back and doing the same thing and pushing themselves again can they find out just how good they can get.
- Kids who repeat levels: Learning mastery
Of course, most swimmers in the FOSS Learn to Swim program will at some point repeat a level (or two.) And this is part of the Swim Path® as well! Our program advances students when they have mastered the skills of a given level. Repeating a level gives students the time and space to truly master the skills that have challenged them most.
Sometimes, for adults, repetition seems like a treadmill. But when you see it through the eyes of kids and understand what it’s doing to help them learn – whether in swim school or anywhere else – you can appreciate that it’s by doing the same thing again and again that they achieve progress!