Here are some of the tricks I use when creating my seating charts.
1) 6th graders are new to me each year. I have about 70 per class in two classes. To help learn their names a little more quickly, and for purposes of grading the children, I use alphabetical seating charts for the first nine weeks. When behavior problems reveal themselves, I move the children as needed, but I often feel like Harrison Ford in the photo above because I don't know the children yet. :-)
2) Also with 6th graders, during the 2nd nine weeks, I begin working toward dividing into 2 parts. During 1st nine weeks, we sing lots of rounds, and I've managed to assess their abilities to hold their parts. I place the children who are strongest at holding their part into the alto section.
3) I always place several of my strongest and most reliable sight singers on the back row in all three grades. I sprinkle a some of the strongest singers into the first three rows as well to help the weaker singers feel more confident.
4) In 7th grade, I split my two classes by gender. I get a few new students, but not a lot, so I base my seating charts on the information I learned about them in 6th grade. When we do two part warm up exercises or when we sing in two parts in our songs, I listen intently. I am able to identify the "sharp" singers with ease. I never place them in the back. Sharp singing is infectious at this age. I also listen for the altos who end up singing soprano, and then I place them into the soprano section. For me, at this age, it isn't about "range". It's about pitch and tonal awareness. The folks whose ears aren't awake enough yet to hold a harmony should not, in my view, be forced to sing alto. It's an exercise in frustration for you, the child and for every singer who sits around them.
5) By 8th grade, everything is pretty clear except that some of the boys voices have dropped a lot, and they aren't sure what to do with it. In 8th grade, my students sing SAB/3-part. I still have some boys who can sing alto or soprano, and I place them there if they are comfortable singing with the girls. Sometimes, for social reasons, they are not comfortable with that, and I try to be sensitive to it.
6) I almost always place my students in this arrangement as I face my students.
6th grade and 7th grade treble:
Altos on my left; sopranos on my right.
Baritones on my left; Tenor/Cambiata on my right.
Alto on my left; Changed voices in the middle; Sopranos on the right.
With 8th grade, depending on the year and the competency level of the girls, I've also tried this:
Alto on my left; Sopranos in the middle; Changed voices on the right.
7) Behavior: I keep the "at risk" students in the front two rows when possible. This includes students with ADD/ADHD and other students who appear to have focus or behavior issues based on my experience with them in my classroom. I place a high-achiever who is unflappable between the children who are "at risk".
I hope that gives you some ideas!
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