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Resources - Applied Lesson Plans
Sink or Swim . . . Lifeguard
Lesson Idea by: John Mutter School District #83 (North Okanagan - Shuswap)

Most people love to swim and play in water. They flock to swimming pools, beaches, lakes and oceans whenever they get the chance.

Yet, if you're not careful when you're in or near the water, you could drown. Or, you could sustain a spinal injury and develop permanent paralysis. Both tragedies happen to hundreds of people every year.

Spinal injuries typically occur when: people dive head first into shallow water; divers hit objects or other swimmers; people dive from high places; and when divers jump into water of unknown depth. About 95 per cent of the most serious injuries result from dives into water less than five feet deep.

Lifeguards may be best known for rescuing people who are in danger of drowning. But another big part of their job involves educating people about water safety. This way, they don't have to put their own lives at risk in order to save someone who hasn't taken the proper safety precautions.

Tracy Schiiler is a lifeguard at a civic recreation center. She's observed all kinds of situations relating to water safety.

"Sometimes rowdy kids or adults may be affecting the safety of the rest of the patrons [at the pool]," she says. "This is made into an even worse situation when the offenders are either acquaintances of the staff member involved, or around the same age or slightly older. In all cases, being strict and being listened to isn't always easy."

Since lifeguards deal with the public, and because they have to enforce strict rules, they must be both diplomatic and firm. The way they emphasize safety rules to adults is different than the way they convey rules to children.

Lifeguards also have to be good at communicating in other ways, too. For instance, a lifeguard has to discuss with parents the progress their children are making in swimming classes. "We send out interim and end-of-session progress reports for each swimmer. If parents wish to talk with the instructors individually, we're always happy to call them at home," Schiiler explains.

Lifeguards also communicate with their co-workers. "Between lifeguards on shift, we communicate via hand signals to each other as well as passing along messages." They also have to communicate with the general public. "With the public, we use our own PR methods as well as a public address system, used both for emergencies and messages to the public, or even game announcements."

You'll find a wonderful resource for swimming safety, as well as pool security and maintenance, at the following website maintained by the Virginia Water Safety Coalition.

Water Safety Resource Kit


You're a lifeguard at a members-only recreational center. One of the members is having an afternoon birthday party for her twin 11-year-olds, and you're serving as the lifeguard.

The twins are, quite frankly, little terrors. They never listen to you or their mother. And now, you have a birthday party with 10 little boys and girls who are just as poorly behaved. You're all alone with them, since their mother has gone to the clubhouse for a much-needed break.

To make matters worse, the twins' older brother is at the party, too. He's encouraging them to do things they wouldn't ordinarily consider doing. He's your age and he doesn't want to listen to your "silly" rules and regulations.

Before things get any worse, you need to have a meeting with the children and lay down some rules. How would you do this? What rules would you tell them? How would you tell them in a way that would make them listen?


One way of planning presentations is known as the CMAP strategy. The letters stand for content, message, audience and purpose.

The idea is to match the message of a presentation to the interaction between context, audience and purpose.

Context - anything that might influence audience response
Message - precise details to get the job done
Audience - primary and secondary
Purpose - immediate, mid-range and long-term

In planning a presentation using the CMAP strategy, begin by identifying the obvious context, basic message, immediate audience and primary purpose. Then consider the audience and their goals to determine precisely what information they need or want from you in order to act.

To help determine the CMAP, ask yourself the following questions:

Context - anything that might influence audience response

  • Is this message independent or the beginning, middle or end of a longer process?
  • What is your relationship to this audience? First contact or established association?
  • Degree of familiarity? How formal or informal is the setting?
  • Do you have any competition -- past, present or future?
  • Is the audience expecting to hear from you?

Message - precise details to get the job done

  • What is the basic message of this document or presentation? (Say this with an action statement.)
  • Should a secondary message be included? Stated explicitly or implied? Why?
  • Given the audience and the context, how should you word the purpose and action statements?
  • What precise amounts, dates, times, etc. will this audience need or want before they act on your message?
  • What's the core message? Are any secondary messages required?
  • What explanations will help improve the audience's understanding?
  • What details would best be presented as graphics, figures or tables?

Audience - primary and secondary

  • Who is your primary audience? (Focus on it.) Who else is likely to see this message, now or later? Consequences?
  • What does your audience already know about this matter? Need to know? Want to know? How technical or specialized?
  • How will your audience benefit from this message? How can you make this benefit clear to them in the message?

Purpose - immediate, mid-range and long-term

  • What do I want your audience to do or think immediately after receiving this document or presentation?
  • How do you want the audience to respond over the next few months?
  • What do you want from the audience in the next few years?
  • Are you informing, persuading, explaining, advising, recommending, evaluating, describing, proposing or doing something else?
  • Why is this message needed? Now? Are deadlines involved? If so, have you specified them?

Now, back to your group of swimmers.

Answer each of the applicable questions in Context, Message, Audience and Purpose for your discussion of the rules with the swimmers. Remember, you're not only dealing with a group of 10 boys and girls about 11 years old -- there's also one person who's your age. How will you deal with both the group of kids and the older brother?

When you have a list of your answers to the CMAP questions, you will develop two CMAP statements, one for the group and another for the individual, which look like this:

I am speaking to (audience) to tell (audience) that (the basic message in one phrase) in order to get (audience) to (purpose stated as action)given these circumstances (setting/environment influences).


The programmer at the pool has noticed an ongoing problem whenever a supervised party is in the pool. She has also noticed that you have a knack for dealing with both parents and children. She has asked you to develop a list of rules, policies and procedures to address the concerns.

These products will be directed at two groups, other lifeguards and party participants.

The programmer has asked you to develop policies and procedures for the staff handbook, as well as a list of rules for pool patrons. In addition, the programmer would like you to develop a workshop for other lifeguards to help them deal appropriately with participating groups.

Create policies, procedures and rules as requested using the CMAP strategy and statement. When you have completed them, choose one of the following to develop:

  1. A rule sheet for prospective customers and a suggested presentation to a group of 13- to 15-year-olds at a youth group function; or
  2. A rules sheet for pool patrons and a suggested presentation to other lifeguards teaching them strategies for effective presentation of the rules to a variety of groups.

Curriculum Organizer(s):
Writing, speaking, and representing.
Curriculum Sub-organizer(s):
Products and Presentations - 2
English 11


Solution to Practice

"In controlling rowdy patrons, one would approach them and give them two or three warnings. You would explain why what they're doing is wrong or disruptive to others and suggest alternate activities. If they don't listen after a fair warning period, generally we've got the power to kick them out of the pool," says Schiiler.

You could channel their energy down a more productive path by suggesting a fun game that they might not know. If they're busy playing something that's fun, they won't have as much time to think about being bad. In this case, if you enlist the help of the twins' older sibling, maybe you can turn things around.

You might try having "offenders" sit out of the pool for five minutes while everyone else plays and has a good time.

Also, it's important to explain "why" something is dangerous. If children want to form a train and go down the slide, they need to realize that the first person in the train will be shoved deep into the water, with everyone else piling on top.

Published in Partnership by the Center for Applied Academics, Bridges Transitions Inc., a Xap Corporation company and The B.C. Ministry of Education, Skills and Training. Copyright © 2002 Center for Applied Academics

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