Teaching and learning are all dependent on relationships.
It's important to have a relationship with your students. Your students need to know that you care about them as people first and foremost. Don't be afraid of telling your students about yourself and the things you did and thought of when you were their age. Keeping an image of yourself at their age will help you to connect with them outside of the lessons you are trying to teach. This will ensure that your lessons are relevant. Talk to them about their interests. Every year I asked my students to write me "love letters". These letters were about things and people that they loved, things and people that were their favorite, things they can never get tired of; these letters could be as elaborate as "Oprah's Favorite Things" with pictures and an explanation to go along with them. Or they can be as simple as a bulleted list with phrases explaining in parenthesis. I could then incorporate those things in my sample sentences, select texts with those topics, purchase treats/rewards based on their lists, personalize rewards, the possibilities were endless. The goal is to get to know them personally as they got to know you. Remember you are teaching the reader, not the reading; the writer, not the writing. Get to know who your students are and what they connect with and I promise you, your lessons will hit their target every time.