The Swim Professor

Jim Reiser, M.S.

How to Use Specific, Corrective Feedback in Swimming Lessons

In my previous blog, ‘How to Use Positive Feedback in Swimming Lessons,” we discussed the importance of using general positive feedback in swimming lessons. Praising your students, whether it be for an actual improvement in performance or for the student’s effort is paramount when it comes to teaching children. Nonetheless, while swimming instructors must be positive and encouraging, we can’t expect our young students to improve without letting the learner know what he or she must do differently in order to improve.

The use of Specific, Corrective Feedback has been the subject of research in motor learning and in teaching. Theoretically, specific information should be more valuable to the learner. Specific feedback has the potential to contribute to student learning a great deal more than general feedback. Specific feedback also serves a major role in maintaining student attention to the task and in developing accountability for task. (Rink, 1993).

What’s important to understand about Specific, Corrective Feedback is that when learners are in the beginning stages (See Cognitive Stage of Learning in my 1/8/17 blog), they cannot use detailed information, which makes it absolutely critical for swimming instructors to give feedback that tends to the “general idea” of the skill. At Swim Lessons University, we have buzzwords and cues for every skill on every lesson plan. We train SLU instructors to give their specific, corrective feedback based on those cues because they have been tested, tried and proven over the past 30+ years. In other words, these cues are not only practical and easy to understand, but they will help the young student learn and master the new skill.

With that said, Specific, Corrective Feedback can also come with a cost if it is overused. Research by The Positive Coaching Alliance shows the magic formula is 5:1! Five positives for every correction.   One technique I like to use is the “Sandwich Technique” when giving corrections: Complement, correct, complement. For example, “Maggie, you have such beautiful strokes. Now if you can just keep your head nice and still, your backstroke is going to look even more fabulous!” While this may be a 2:1 ratio, you just make sure to praise your student on a few more things that your student is doing well before giving another correction. Hope you found this blog helpful!

The International Swimming Hall of Fame has named Jim Reiser the recipient of the 2015 Virginia Hunt Newman Award for his curriculum and approach in teaching infants, toddlers, and children to swim.  Jim is the first American to win the award in 10 years.

If you would like to learn more about the Swim Lessons University certification program and curriculum, make sure to visit us at  We have training and certification programs designed for both private instructors as well as organizations like YMCAs, Recreation Departments, Athletic Clubs, and more.

Swim Lessons University is currently being utilized by recreation departments, YMCAs, America Camp Association swim lessons programs, as well as by private swimming instructors in 45 states and over 30 countries!

You can also call us toll free at 1-866-498-SWIM (7946).

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January 12, 2017 at 5:11 am Comments (0)

How to Improve Your Swim School Business

What measures can you take to improve your swim school business?  As the unexpected first place San Francisco Forty-Niners Coach Jim Harbaugh said after yesterday’s win:”WE SPEND A LOT OF TIME ASKING QUESTIONS.”

Swim school owners must do the same.  What questions should you be asking?  Here are a number of good ones to get you started:

  • How can we improve our staff training?
  • What incentives do we offer our instructors to be even interested in improving what seems to be already working?
  • How can we improve our customer service?
  • What can we do to increase referrals?
  • How can we advertise more cost effectively?
  • What can we do in order to encourage ongoing instruction and repeat business from the students we already have?
  • How can we use social networking more effectively?
  • What costs do we have that are “wants” vs. “needs?”
  • How can we communicate more effectively?
  • What can we do to make doing business with us easier?

The list of questions you have to ask almost endless.   As business owners, we have to ask these questions and then act upon them if we are going to continue to improve.  As the saying goes,  “If what you did yesterday still looks good today, then you haven’t done much today.”

The best in any business don’t turn a blind eye to the negatives that are present–even when the business is successful.  The best are always looking to get better. Like a great coaching staff, you have to pick apart every aspect of your game and find ways to get better.

What if things aren’t going well for you?   Then double the importance of everything we just discussed.   Be resilient, find a way stay positive, and refuse to quit.  Be determined and enjoy the challenge.  Sometimes you have to take chances.  But learn every day, drink from good books, and seek help from those who have been there.

The International Swimming Hall of Fame has named Jim Reiser the recipient of the 2015 Virginia Hunt Newman Award for his curriculum and approach in teaching infants, toddlers, and children to swim.  Jim was the first American to win the award in 10 years.

If you would like to learn more about the Swim Lessons University certification program and curriculum, make sure to visit us at 

We have training and certification programs designed for both private instructors as well as organizations like YMCAs, Recreation Departments, Athletic Clubs, and more.

Swim Lessons University is currently being utilized by recreation departments, YMCAs, America Camp Association swim lessons programs, as well as by private swimming instructors in 45 states and over 30 countries!

You can also call us toll free at 1-866-498-SWIM (7946).


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November 7, 2011 at 2:01 pm Comment (1)

Group Swim Lessons

When it comes to determining what type of swim lessons you can offer, or what type of swim lesson class a parent should enroll their child in, there are several considerations, including, but not limited to the skill level of the swimmers.  In today’s blog on group swim lessons for kids, my recommendations are based on the assumption that we are talking about non-swimmers or true beginner swimmers.  With that said, here are my recommendations based on the age of the beginner swimmers:

3 & 4 year olds

Especially for children under five years old, I personally don’t recommend a class larger than 3 children.  As you probably well know, I also feel strongly about the benefits of using a “progressive flotation device (removable buoyancy pads),” from both a safety stand point as well a means to increase the child’s ability to learn faster due to increased practice time.  You improve anything through practice.  If you can’t practice-you can’t improve.  In terms of a developing a dependency with a progressive flotation device, you eliminate that because you are constantly challenging the swim lesson student by giving them just enough buoyancy to be successful.  On the other hand, use no flotation device and what happens?  The child becomes dependant on the person helping them and holding them, and doesn’t learn how their kicking and pulling actually moves them through the water.

5 & 6 years olds

A quad class (4:1 ratio) or small group class (6:1 ratio) can work nicely in kids swim lessons, providing you use some type of progressive flotation device for beginners AND have an experienced swimming instructor who minimizes downtime.  If there is a lot of “waiting turns,” then you’re much better off with a smaller class.   Not only does the child miss out on invaluable practice time, but teachers will experience class management problems as well, not to mention the safety of the children is compromised.

7 & 8 year olds

For children ages 7 and over, a group of up to 8 can still provide an effective learning environment even for beginners.  But once again, providing the swim instructor uses some type of flotation device and knows how to maximize practice time when teaching  group swim lessons to beginners.

Advantages of the Small Group Lessons

There are some clear advantages of small group swim lessons over private lessons as well:

  1. Peer Learning – Peer learning is very powerful. The “if she can do it I can do it” logic is very real and goes a long way in learning and improving skills.
  2. Fun – Children enjoy being around other children.  More than any other class scenario, “small groups” capture this critical component of learning.   Enjoyment = Success.
  3. Price – Small Group Lessons are certainly the most economical because the addition of more students brings down the cost of the class.

At the Swim Lessons Company, we no longer do anything larger than a trio (3 children per class) for beginner preschoolers (Swim 101).  We did quads (4:1 ratio) for a long time, but for both learning and safety reasons, we now don’t go larger then trios.  For older children, Swim 102 (6-9) and Swim 103 (10-12), we regularly offer quads and small group classes, which the class is comprised to up to six students.  In fact, we even will put up to eight students in a class in some of our school swim programs, camps, etc. where the children are at least 7 years of age.  Again, when you combine flotation devices and better motor ability due to maturation, you can run a very successful small group class in a safer, more enjoyable learning environment.

Hope this article was helpful to you.  I will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of private swim lessons in my next swim lesson blog.

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November 28, 2010 at 2:09 pm Comments (0)

Learn to Swim Classes

One of the most common misunderstandings about learn to swim classes is that each child has to be at the “exact” skill level.   While there are certainly benefits to dividing children up based on their skill level in swimming lessons and I definitely recommend it, you will always have a range of swimming abilities and skill differences among students, just as you do in the classroom at school on any given subject, or any other class for that matter.

In fact, providing that the differences in skill level aren’t extreme, there are real and clear advantages when there are some differences. In addition, there are lessons to be learned when a child is the best student in the class and lessons to be learned when the student is the least skilled student in the class.

For example, if you observe a child who is the best student in the swim lessons –you may witness improvements in self-confidence, self-esteem, and even leadership qualities as this child may naturally start trying to help his fellow students or at least lead by example with his positive attitude and approach to learning.   On the other hand, if you observe a student who is the least skilled swimmer in a class, this child will learn patience, persistence, and even better work ethic because he naturally wants to be as good as the other student(s).

Doesn’t this make perfect sense?  Yet far too often, parents tend to want either one scenario or the other.  Some learn to swim parents like it only when their child is the best.  Other parents think their child needs challenged and they don’t want them in a class with children of lesser ability.  But in my opinion, there are clearly advantages to exposing children to both scenarios.

I should also point out that when a swim lesson is thoughtfully organized, you will also often see one student excel in one skill/exercise and another excel in something else. In my opinion, every swim lessons should include five or six major skills or exercises that are appropriate for the student’s ability level. Within each of those five or six major skills, there should be progressions predetermined that will make a skill/drill start out easy, but gradually get harder.  As in all our Swim Lesson Plans, you will find progressions already designed for you within our four major courses:

1.      Parent & Me

2.      Swim 100 level (beginners learning fundamental swimming skills)

3.      Swim Strokes 200 level (advanced beginners learning strokes)

4.      Advanced Swim Strokes 300 level (intermediate swimmers learning advanced strokes).

In addition, each of these levels are broken down further by age group, so your students are placed in age appropriate classes and the skills in each level are also age appropriate.  Not to mention, the approach and terminology should be adjusted when you go from teaching preschoolers to swim to teaching school-aged children.

For more information on the  Swim Lessons University curriculum and our swim lesson awards system, visit us at Swim Lessons University.

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November 24, 2010 at 4:42 pm Comments (0)