Friday, May 4, 2007

Learn more ways to say what you mean

One of the advantages that I have over many swimming teachers is my studies in counseling. A counseling course, even a basic one is something I would recommend for any teacher that wants to succeed.

From counseling I have learned that everybody has different filters that interpret what we say. This is particularly true of children.

Children however have the added complication of not having life experience enough to help in the interpretation. Thus the old story of the parent who told the child to pull up their socks only to have the child bend over and say "but they are up".



Mind you I've heard people try to tell me using that story that you can't use euphemisms with children at all and I've not found that to be true either.

Still what you say to a child is important if you want them to learn to swim.

Take for instance when you want a child to learn floating. You may need to say "Tilt you head back" and the child may put their head on their chest. This means you now need to explain that a chin on the chest is putting the head down and you want them to look up. A gentle lifting of their chin may then be required with your free hand to reinforce the intent.

You then may want them to raise their legs. Unless you say "I want you to lift you toes to the top of the water" they are just as likely to bend their knees under their body. Even then they may lift their toes up bending their knees out of the water as well.

The instruction then becomes "lift you toes and straighten your knees". Just make sure that you only give 2 or at the most 3 instructions at the one time or the child and indeed many adults may be lost.

There is a condition called short term auditory memory loss. It means that there is a limited amount of things that some people can remember after they have heard a set of instructions. In some cases it is as low as one thing at a time. Most children grow out of this but some don't and we all have a limit on how much we can remember. So the less instruction you give the better.

I use many different terms to describe what I want a child or adult to do. For example raise you hips often becomes "lift or push up you tummy" or "lift or push you bottom up". "Lower you legs" may become "put your knees under the water". Raise you hands often needs to be qualified with "above your head" or even "on your head" or "let me help you with my free hand"

In short don't limit yourself to one set of instructions, learn more ways to say the same thing and limit your number of instructions.

Enjoy
   Richard

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