This Word Document contains a short and engaging article on why studying the liberal arts, humanities, and English can benefit students' lives both professionally and personally.
The activity has the learning goals at the top and begins with the quote: "An education is one of the few things people are willing to pay for and not get", followed by a reflection question to prompts student thought on the nature and purpose of education within their own lives.
Following this is and an optional class discussion is the article (2 pages) on how the liberal arts educate people for life itself. Following the article is a brief segue that outlines the fact English is a part of the humanities, or the liberal arts. Then, there is an extensive list of themes (self-reliance, authority, community etc) that English touches upon, with a final reflection question that asks students to write about a time in their life when they learned about life itself through a first-hand experience of one of these themes.
I always start the year with this activity because it draws an immediate connection between what we are studying and students' lives, gives me a good paragraph or two sample of student writing, and is actually very good for fostering trust within the class via the discussion to the last reflection questions on life issues/themes. I enjoy it, it breaks the ice, and gives momentum to another school year.
Thanks for looking and good luck!