This brief activity for the first few days of school encourages students to think about your history class as an experience that will change who they are and how prepared they are for everyday life. Too many students think a history class is about memorizing events, but your class will prepare them to serve on a jury; analyze the words of men and women who want to abuse their power; write persuasively; and discuss competing American values like liberty, equality, private property, and order.
Before you print the handout examine the eight statements in the left column and modify the ones that you don't think your class will cover, adding life skills that you will work on.
On the day that you use this handout, give it to students and ask them to quietly circle their current skill level on each of the eight statements. Encourage them not to be overconfident, but to judge their skill accurately.
When everyone is done, you can either describe how your class will teach these skills, have a discussion of which skills are the most important, or just collect the sheets and tell students that you will do a post-assessment at the end of the year.
This lesson makes it less likely that students will talk negatively about history as a subject, and more likely that they will tell their parents that this class is interesting and important!