I went to a PD this weekend and sat through a session where the presenter was explaining the "right" way to group your students as they work in workstations and you do guided reading. She said that you have to put one high student, with 2 middle level students and one low. Because you can't put just high or low students together in a group. Now, I am not a very bold person by nature and usually would have just sat there quietly wallowing in my own anger. However, I raised my hand and asked why-"why would you HAVE to do it that way"? Her answer-because you have to have a high student to lead the group. Someone has to help the other kids. One teacher said, "I train my kids how to teach the other kids".
This is one of my BIGGEST pet peeves! First of all, I have seen workstation experts like Debbie Diller who have said put low with low and high with high-it's not a novel idea. If you put a high kid in with low kids-you are expecting them to do your job for you. You want them to help the kids learn their high frequency words when they are reading on a 3rd Grade level. What are they learning that's new? When do they get to work on the skills they need to work on.
The other excuse I hear is-you learn things better by teaching them to someone else. Actually, I don't believe that is true. I recently taught a friend to drive a standard stick shift because she really wanted to buy a car, but had never driven a stick before. I have been driving a standard shift car since I learned to drive at 16 years old. I don't drive a standard any better now because I taught her. Why would a fluent reader have to review sight words they already know over and over every day?
I know this is controversial to some people simply because it's not the way they do it. But if you think about it I think you'll realize it's the best way for all kids to be practicing the skills they need to practice. Give the low kids an activity they can accomplish independently (that's what the purpose of workstations is actually) and let the high kids be challenged during their workstation time! Consider grouping them homogeneously!