If we want students to care about their learning and to retain their learning we need to give them a reason to care about what they are learning. Because it is a state standard, because it is on the test or because they can build a bridge with it are in my opinion all terrible reasons to learn something. I do not know one person who builds bridges, thus this reason is not applicable to most students.
Why will students care TODAY about what they are learning? How does this tie into the students interests? This is the challenge to build into the anticipatory set of our lessons.
My husband is an English teacher and he was sharing with me the resources that are available on the Shmoop website. Shmoop provides lessons, activities, quizzes and other resources around almost any topic and subject. You can find a list of all that Shmoop offers on their site map: http://www.shmoop.com/sitemap.html. These resources include prep for teachers to study the Praxis, CSET, Common Core and much more.
I noticed that each Learning Guide on Shmoop provided a section "Why Should I Care" or "Real World." You can use these as starters for building the "Why are we learning this?" portion of your lesson.
Take a look at these samples. Scroll down to find the "Why Should I Care" section.