This never fails to amaze me! It shouldn't, but it does!
My syllabus is both printed and distributed to students, as well as available online: http://faculty.collegeofthedesert.edu/msmith (Click on English 1A and then on Syllabus.) I think it's very clear what reading is to be completed before each class meeting, and I even go over how to read the syllabus, including assignments, during the first two classes. Yet it never fails: The first day I give a quiz on the stated reading assignments, there are several who let me know that they hadn't read it! Needless to say, they take a zero on the quiz, and if they have any smarts at all, they always do the reading from then on. But I still think it's sad that anyone in a college class thinks it's all right NOT to do the assignments.
By May 23rd, this one quiz grade will amount to about 0.1% of the total grade, but right now, with so few grades posted, it's a huge zero! And if they can get their time commitments under control early in the semester, they should be fine. That seems to be a big if, though. I'm hoping the time management part of my lessons will pay off for many if not all of them.
I'm also drumming in the terms phrase, clause, independent clause, dependent (subordinate) clause, and the four types of sentences: simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex. They have the definitions; they have the references in their English handbook for further definitions and examples; and we will be analyzing a couple of student-written sentences during each class. We cannot begin to talk intelligently about comma usage, as well as semicolons, colons, etc., without their understanding these terms and being able to recognize these types of sentences. We'll see how it goes.