The college tests the students in reading, writing and math. There are two remedial reading courses and two writing courses. I have taught both remedial writing courses (I declined to teach reading) and ENG 101.
Most of the students, but not all, in remedial writing classes also take remedial reading. Several of my students did.
For some, maturity is the issue. For others, the problem is that English is their second language or they have been out of school for a number of years. There are some who clearly were not well taught and others who were in special education classes or were simply goof offs.
When reading comprehension is an issue, it shows. While many of the remedial writing students are also in remedial reading, this semester, I have college level English students whose reading ability lags.
One woman, a non-traditional student, has never understood an assigned essay. Most of the students in the class that she is in seem to have vocabulary issues. We spend a lot of time on definitions. There were only 15 students in the class. One dropped out. Another is dealing with his mother's stroke and probably will never return. There is one student whose face I can not remember. While this class reads the material, only two students seem to totally understand the text, called 75 Readings by Buscemi and Smith.
The other class consists of 20 students. There is a handful that put in an appearance every 3rd or 4th class. Only four of the 20 read the material with any regularity. One works so hard that he is inspiring.
I refrained from giving them pop quizzes, although I have read that pop quizzes, unlike standardized tests are valuable learning tools. I feel pop quizzes are appropriate up to the 9th grade.
As for progress, some remedial students have "Marblehead" moments. They suddenly mature. In one case, a young man overcame his intense shyness. Most leave the class writing better than they did when they entered. Some of those who improve surprise me . . . and themselves. I had three particularly pretty girls who sat together and gossiped. At the beginning of the semester, it was apparent that not much had been asked of them during high school. By the end, they had improved dramatically. Part of their inspiration came from sitting behind a boy who may have been misplaced. They would look up at his computer and see three or four paragraphs while they had two or three sentences. He was a constant reminder of what they could do.
I had a similar situation my first semester, only there were two girls and not three. One had some pretty solid achievements in dance and photography behind her and a definite middle class family structure. I read her third party -- anonymously -- to the class. She was in the middle of changing but the change accelerated. Her friend managed to pass as well. . . something came over her before the class ended.
I teach the argument to my intermediate groups. They need to know how an argument is structured in order to avoid false arguments. I tell them to argue about anything they wish and they do it with gusto. They seem to come out of their shells.
This is only the second semester teaching 101. The last class shown for the argument. This class just didn't get it. The highest score was 83.
I think the argument against teaching literature is that the class is supposed to teach expository writing. However, fiction and expository writing do share some common traits. This semester, I began with a Hemingway short story that was just two pages long. I'm glad I did because it was set during the Spanish Civil War, which they knew nothing about. However, while it was a very traditional beginning-middle-end story, I think the intense feeling of dislocation and grief one of the characters had confused them