You talked about how challenging it is to have students at so many different reading levels. I also have a very wide range of reading levels in my classroom. I use the Fountas and Pinnell guided reading levels and have students reading independently at levels ranging from I-V. Meeting their needs in the midst of a reading workshop (like you are already doing) is really the best approach to take. The great thing about reading workshop is that it allows you to differentiate your teaching to meet the needs of your very diverse learners through whole-class mini-lessons, guided reading and strategy groups, and individual reading conferences.
Even with the huge range of reading levels in my classroom, I still teach one whole-class mini-lesson everyday. In these mini-lessons, I focus on skills that all third graders should be using when they read. The differentiation occurs during individualized daily reading time
(IDR) when I hold guided reading groups, confer with individual readers, and teach strategy lessons to meet the very specific needs of my readers.
Remember that your higher readers need to be seen less than your struggling readers. Many teachers try to make sure they meet with each reader an equal number of times, but your low readers should be seen more often. Your higher readers will still grow if they take part in an effective mini-lesson each day and then get IDR time to practice the strategies you are teaching when they are reading their self-selected texts.
I wasn't sure what you meant when you asked what specific reading strategies I use to differentiate my teaching. I use the conferring notes and my own observation notes that I take when meeting with students in small groups to plan my future instruction with those students. I find that strategy lessons are great because you can pull readers from all different reading levels to focus on reading skills with which they all may be struggling. During these strategy lessons, students often use self-selected texts from their book boxes (since those books are at their independent level) to practice the skill or strategy I am teaching/reinforcing in my lesson.
I certainly do not have a perfect answer to your question, but I hope I've given you some help!
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