A Division of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Heinemann

Code-Switching Lessons

Grammar Strategies for Linguistically Diverse Writers

Rebecca S Wheeler, Rachel S Swords

ISBN 978-0-325-02610-7 / 0-325-02610-6 / 2010 / 320pp / Paperback
Imprint: FirstHand
Availability: This title is out of print.
Grade Level: 3rd - 6th
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“In Code-Switching Lessons, we show you how to lay down the red pen and use successful strategies—contrastive analysis and code-switching—for teaching Standard English in linguistically diverse classrooms.”
—Rebecca Wheeler & Rachel Swords

Our kids bring to school powerful linguistic know-how—the cadences, rhythms, and language patterns of their homes and communities. Code-Switching Lessons shows teachers how to build on students’ existing knowledge (Community English) to add new knowledge (Academic English).Teacher educator Rebecca Wheeler and urban educator Rachel Swords show how to lead students in discovery learning of grammar. Through contrastive analysis students gain explicit awareness of the contrasts between informal and formal English. From there, Rebecca and Rachel show how to lead students to code-switch—to choose the language style to fit the setting—the time, place, audience, and communicative purpose. In this way, teachers learn to build on students’ linguistic strengths and add Standard English to students’ linguistic toolkits.

Code-Switching Lessons components:
• 9 grammar units that fit naturally into your writing block form the core of the lesson book. Each unit contains two to four lessons that lead students to explore informal and formal grammar patterns in search of generalizations, comparisons, and contrasts. Following a scientific method of grammar inquiry, lessons move students from defining and classifying the grammar patterns to practicing and applying the pattern in their own writing.
• An accompanying CD-ROM provides video and print resources to support your teaching. This electronic resource also provides answers to frequently asked questions and an extensive list of vernacular English patterns often found in school writing.

While showing teachers how to identify and successfully respond to the top 9 grammar patterns common among students who speak African American Vernacular English (AAVE), these code-switching strategies extend to students speaking diverse dialects of US English (Appalachian, Southern, etc), International English (Australian English, Hong Kong English, British English), and to students who are English Language Learners (ELL).

Listen to a podcast of Rebecca Wheeler and David Brown as they discuss what code-switching is with illustrations from literature and student work.


About Code-Switching
- How did Code-Switching Lessons come to be?
- Why teach code-switching?
- What are the essential features of a successful code-switching approach?

About Code-Switching Lessons
- The components
- The units
- The lessons

Customizing Code-Switching Lessons to Your Own Classroom
- Attuning your ear and eye to your students’ spoken language patterns
- Collecting examples of the patterns from your students’ written work
- Building your own code-switching charts
- Following the Code-Switching Lessons model to teach your patterns

Unit 1: Diversity in Life and Language
Understanding Formal vs. Informal
Unit 2: Showing Possession
I play on Derrick team vs. I play on Derrick’s team
Unit 3: Plural Patterns
I have two dog vs. I have two dogs
Unit 4: Reviewing Possessive and Plural Patterns
Review patterns from Units 2 and 3
Unit 5: Showing Past Time
Yesterday I turn on the TV vs. Yesterday I turned on the TV
Unit 6: Subject–Verb Agreement
She work hard vs. She works hard
Unit 7: Was/Were
We was working vs. We were working
Unit 8: Am/Is/Are
We is working vs. We are working
Unit 9: Using Be
She my best friend vs. She’s my best friend
Unit 10: Multiple Patterns
Review of all patterns
Unit 11: Character and Voice in Literature

Efficacy Research

Frequently Asked Questions


In Depth

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“I cannot possibly express, even in "code-switched" words, how grateful I am for your book, and--more importantly--for your insights into how to teach the students I love that their word choices are not "WRONG"—they are simply choices meant for a different audience or a different time or place. My students are bright, caring, individuals who are extremely enthusiastic and literate--if not in a Warriner's grammar book sense.

Donna Cardwell, Instructional Facilitator for Writing, Broward County Public Schools


When I talk to teachers in various schools throughout our district, grammar is always a major concern. I know that there is no silver bullet when it comes to education and grammar, but I think code-switching is as close to a silver bullet as we can get with our linguistically diverse students.

Kindel Holloman, Assistant Principal, Ghent Elementary, Norfolk Public Schools


I am a 4th grade teacher in North Carolina. I wanted to thank you for your research and work with dialect diversity in classrooms. I have been using the contrastive approach this year and my students are responding well. They feel empowered when I tell them to translate the phrase, rather than feeling put down when I tell them something is wrong.

Amy Gregory, 4th Grade Teacher, Longview Elementary School

Email planningservices@heinemann.com if you would like to contact Rebecca S Wheeler directly about professional development support.

Email planningservices@heinemann.com if you would like to contact Rachel S Swords directly about professional development support.

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