In order to link what students are interested in and what they do in school, I offered them the chance to read texts on topics of their choosing. Students brainstormed a list of topics they were interested in and then looked for articles, videos, blogs, etc. that matched their interests. I also looked for texts, and together we made a reading list.
I realized that in English class, it doesn't really matter what students read; I was more interested in what they did with what they read. For example, as they practiced close reading and annotating skills, it didn't matter if they all read the same text. And as they practiced writing skills, it didn't matter if they all wrote on the same topic.
This was so freeing for me, as I didn't have to read 100 essays on the same topic. But it was even more exciting for my students since they were actually interested in and engaged with what they were reading for English class. I had students who read about environmental issues; still others dove into documentaries about the food industry; some even read about politics and current events. And they were more inclined to complete the writing assignment that accompanied the reading, since it was something they cared about.
I learned so much about so many topics and had great conversations with my students about things they were interested in, and my students were engaged with their work since they had a sense of ownership in the texts they read.
It was a win-win for me and my students.