The 10th Grade at my school is not leveled in English or History. This can pose challenges when assigning reading. Also, I don't receive great data on each student's reading level when they enter the course.
For one of the first in-class activities, I ask them to indicate on a sticky note if they are a slow, slow medium, medium, fast, or fast reader. Based on that self identification I hand out a four page article, a six page article, or both articles. (These articles were about Gabriel Garcia Marquez.)
After they finish the articles, I ask them if they found them to be hard, medium, or easy. This provides me with a tremendous amount of data. Although I know reading speed doesn't equal reading level, it still helps me plan my classes and homework assignments. (If everyone answered slow, I would have to adjust how much reading I assign per night and help them develop strategies to read faster.) If they say the articles were easy to medium, I know I am assigning the right kinds of materials for in-class non-fiction reading (vs. novels or short stories).
After the students have finished their readings, they work in groups to create an identity chart based on their readings and an 8-minute video from class. This democratizes the group process and facilitates universal participation.