Little House in the Big Woods is a huge hit! We are having so much fun learning about life in the big woods of Wisconsin. This class is full of animal-lovers, so the cows, dogs, cats, panthers, deer, bears, and pigs hold their interests for sure! Last week, we read about Ma’s chores for the week and talked about how different our lives are compared to the Ingalls’.
We noticed that Laura does a great job of explaining things step by step so that readers, who may not be familiar with the task, can follow along and picture how to complete it. Laura has a great explanation of churning butter. We put it to the test! Out of my magic teacher bag (it’s huge; comparable to Mary Poppins’), I pulled out some cream and a couple of mason jars. (Pardon my facial expressions…)
We put cream in the mason jars and shook with all of our might! While we were shaking (making butter takes a while!), students brainstormed what they know about and what they are good at so that they can write their own expository pieces.
After much vigorous shaking, as well as some dancing, the cream became whipped, turned chunky, and finally, formed a beautiful golden lump of buttery goodness.Lucky for us, I happened to have a loaf of fresh chocolate chip banana bread with me! It was so creamy and sweet! The kids loved it and could hardly believe that they made it themselves just out of cream! Some students even told me they were going to try to make it at home.
Since then, we have proceeded past brainstorming, drafting, and even revising. Writing is a long process! To take a break from all the work, we tested out yet another of Laura’s expository pieces: maple sugar candy. We read about how Pa and Laura’s Grandpa had to tap the maple trees to collect the sap, boil the sap down, and cool it to create delicious maple syrup. Once again, I did not tell the students that making maple sugar candy was on our plans; I wanted it to be a surprise. It did not take them long to figure out what we were making! We met the school’s wonderful cook in the kitchen and she let us watch intensely as she boiled the pure syrup.
The 4th graders explained to her the process of extracting sap from a tree. We watched the candy thermometer rise until the syrup reached a piping 235 degrees Fahrenheit! It only boiled over twice and caught fire once. That’s not too bad, right?! We talked about how difficult it was to keep the boiling under control and how much harder it probably was for Pa and Grandpa!
Instead of pouring our candy over fresh snow, we poured it over vanilla ice cream! YUM!
For whatever reason, the syrup didn’t solidify in the way that we thought it would. It acted more like syrup than taffy, which was still delicious! We brainstormed what could have caused the syrup to stay so thin.
I don’t always wear a scarf with my hair in a braid, but when I do, I guess we cook stuff. I do wear other things, I promise.
It was DELICIOUS! After we waited a few minutes, it did start to thicken up. Once again, the 4th graders were so proud of themselves for making something so awesome! In the meantime, the cook ran outside and filled a pan with snow to pour the extra syrup over. It worked! We made taffy! It looked just like the taffy that Laura and Mary make in the book.
I can’t believe we are halfway done with our book already! The students just can’t get enough of it. Many students have already started on the next books in the Little House series. There’s even a wait-list for some of them! Next week, I will start my full four-week takeover. With this group, I know that it will be a lot of fun!