Sometimes, it's ridiculous vocabulary. For instance, my crimebusters team went into competition and asked me the scientific name for taking a fingerprint. Knowing that 'fingerprinting' wasn't what the judges were looking for, I googled it. Turns out, the correct way to say that you're studying fingerprints is to say that you're looking at someone's dermatoglyphics. If you break the word down, it makes perfect sense...it's just not part of our daily vocabulary.
I've been working with kids that are similarly or less affluent than my current population for the past 3 years, and I'm still routinely surprised at their lack of experiential knowledge. It's not their fault- they simply haven't had the opportunities and exposure that make learning so much easier when you are able to leave the county you were born into or you're exposed to the news. Regardless, watching their "whoa" faces as you explain something like their home state (South Carolina) bordering the Atlantic Ocean and describe what the ocean looks like, what a beach looks and feels and smells like, because they have no concept....it's sad.
As someone who's not a writing teacher (even though we write in Science and Social Studies regularly), my writing topics are not geared toward student opinions. I get less time with my kids individually than I'd like- I get around to all the tables during their group or individual work, but there's very little time to talk to my kiddos about anything other than the task at hand. Even our class changes are so short, there's time for a kid to start telling me something but rarely time to finish it. I miss that more connectedness that I had in my smaller school.
During my after school tutoring time, we were working on matter versus not matter- what we'd been working on in class the day before. One of my girls and I worked together on our lists, and eventually I had her write so that all the ideas on it were 100% hers and not a combination of our ideas.
Here's her list: