Rebecca Wheeler

Dr. Rebecca Wheeler

Linguistics Minor, Director

Ph.D., University of Chicago
M.S., Georgetown University
B.A., University of Virginia

Office:  McMurran 201E
Phone:  (757) 594-8889

Areas of Teaching
The Structure of English
Language Varieties in American Schools
Introduction to Linguistics
Freshman and Sophomore writing seminars

Rebecca Wheeler is an expert on teaching Standard English in dialectally diverse classrooms. Wheeler works with literacy coaches, communication specialists, and classroom teachers K – 14 who want to know “what to do about all those missing –ed's, -s's” in their students' writing. While her work currently focuses on helping teachers respond to African American student writers, the insights and strategies she brings extend to any group of students who speak and write an Everyday English differing from Formal Standard American English (Cajun English, Native American English, Appalachian English, Southern English, Bronx English, International English, etc). Wheeler shows teachers how to build on what students do know – Community English – as they add Standard English to their linguistic repertoires. This work transforms teacher practice and holds promise for closing the longstanding achievement gap in our schools. Her book Code-Switching: Teaching Standard English in Urban Classrooms, written in partnership with elementary educator Rachel Swords, offers teachers linguistic insights and practical strategies for the urban classroom. Wheeler has served as consultant for public schools K – 14 from New York to New Orleans, and from Chicago to Arkansas. For 2007 – 2008, Wheeler is Principal Investigator on a grant, Technology Enhanced Learning of English and Science in Middle School, VA funded through the State Council of Higher Education of Virginia (SCHEV) under the federal Title II, Part A – Improving Teacher Quality State Grants. She is a literacy consultant and spokesperson for the National Council of Teachers of English.

Selected Recent Publications
2010 Wheeler, Rebecca & Rachel Swords. Code-Switching Lessons: Grammar Strategies for Linguistically Diverse Writers. A FirstHand Curriculum. Portsmouth, NH: Heinmann.

2008 Wheeler Rebecca "Becoming Adept at Code-Switching." Educational Leadership. Themed issue on Poverty and Learning. Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD).

2006 Wheeler, Rebecca and Rachel Swords. Code-Switching: Teaching Standard English in Urban Classrooms. A book in the TRIP series (Theory and Research into Practice), National Council of Teachers of English. Urbana: IL.

2006 Amanda Godley, Julie Sweetland, Rebecca S. Wheeler, Angela Minnicci and Brian Carpenter, “Preparing teachers for the dialectally diverse classroom.”(PDF) Educational Researcher. Vol. 35, No 8., November 2006, pp. 30 – 37.

2005b “Code-switch to Teach Standard English.” Invited column for Teaching English in the World. Ken Lindblom. English Journal (May 2005), 109 – 112.

2004 Wheeler, Rebecca S. and Rachel Swords. “Codeswitching: Tools of language and culture transform the dialectally diverse classroom.” Language Arts, NCTE. Vol. 81, No. 6. July 2004, 470 – 480.

See also

Summer 2007, Wheeler’s presentation video and paper, Code-switching: Insights and strategies for teaching Standard English), the Achievement Gap Initiative, Harvard University (

November 20, 2007, Wheeler’s Forum Lecture, Code-switching: Teaching Standard English in African American Classrooms, at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, in conjunction with WGBH of Boston. (

Web Pages
Rebecca Wheeler's NCTE consultant site