Positioning is a strategy I use, especially at the beginning of the school year, to ensure that my students know where they should go, what they will do at each station, and how much time they will spend at each station. Positioning occurs after I welcome the class (please see the "Opening Bell" strategy video) and before they begin rotating. I typically project the group assignment page from our class website onto the smart board and do a few quick checks for understanding before I let students go to their stations.
When I am the teacher-artist, I consider the personalities and work ethic of students. If there are chatty students or students who are going to end up in a conflict, I cannot put them in the same group because of the nature of not being able to facilitate all of the students at once. In this instance, it is more important to create groupings that promote a harmonious learning environment. There are times when I form groups based on pre assessment or skill deficits. When the instructional focus is writing or the writing process, I found that grouping students with the same instructional need for that particular set of writing prompts has produced the most gains. These homogeneous groups allow students to practice a skill with their peers and for the small group instruction to be more targeted and specific to the needs of the learners. There may be a group of students who are struggling with the thesis statement for a particular prompt or may have difficultly connecting the content to writing process. These students would be placed in the same group.
I use this strategy to activate my students' interest and prior knowledge on a topic. This gives me a good starting point on the curated video and reading list for the independent station. It also gives my students a visual representation of the range of interests in the class. In my opinion, using the interests of my students to guide instruction is the core of a student-centered classroom.
The grouping algorithm employed by School of One assigns students a new lesson every day based on the student's most current learning needs. The algorithm actually learns the students' needs from the previous day's exit ticket. One of the learning styles or lesson types, Live Investigation, assigns students to me who are ready for whatever the assigned skill is. However, within that group, there are still varying levels of ability. I can see all of this on my data report and then I can group within my group. I call this micro-grouping.