Having just stepped out of a tent set up in the middle of the classroom, a Plainview second grader walked over and rang a bell, signifying another 100 reading points.
Tents? In the classroom?  
Cathy Bartgis’ second grade class at Plainview celebrated meeting a class goal on Friday by transforming their classroom into campgrounds, with several tents pitched right in the center of the classroom. The class earned the right to camp out for the day by collectively reaching a class reading goal and earning 1,200 points. Bartgis said she has always had classes set goals and provides some sort of incentive for when that goal is reached.   
Through her years of teaching, Bartgis said students have recommended everything from a movie day to having popcorn in class. But when the students suggested bringing a “Kumbya” atmosphere into the class, she was surprised.
“They brainstormed this,” Bartgis said, standing amongst a collection of tents. “I’ve done this for years and no class has ever suggested this. We’ve done pajamas, we’ve done electronic day, we’ve done movie days, but we’ve never done something like this.”
On Friday, the class would work like any other day in class, but when Bartgis felt a break was in store, she would say to the class “I think we deserve some tent time.” The students, more than happy to oblige the request, would then grab a book or Ipad and crawl into their tents to spend 20 or 30 minutes reading as if they were camping in the great outdoors.
For that time, the space the students were in transformed from Mrs. Bartgis’ second grade class into a real-life camp site.
Bartgis said she keeps the students motivated to read with weekly goals, rewards and cheering them to success. Rewards in the form of coupons, celebrations and, for the first time, having a tent day all feed into the goal of a collective love for reading and the class, as a whole, working toward a tangible goal.
“That way it feels like a classroom community and we can lift each other up,” she said. “No matter what level they are they cheer everybody.”
Barthis said the rewards and incentives to read have given the students more reason to work together toward a goal and spend more time reading. Reading, Barthis emphasized, is something students at this stage in life should be doing regularly. Encouraging students with the ability to set up their dream day of school is just one example of a ways students can be motivated to read even more.
“It fosters that love of reading,” she said. “That’s my whole goal ... because right now they’re learning to read and learning the enjoyment of reading, but next year in third grade they’re reading to learn. So I have to foster that love of reading now and prepare them for third grade so they can learn from their reading.”
While the in-class campsite was a milestone goal for the class, the bell continued to ring in points on Friday and the students continued to cheer on their fellow classmates as they finished books and continued to read toward their goals.
With reading and books continuing to stir their imaginations, who knows what goal the students could come up with next?