There is debate on when to celebrate National Friendship day. Some say July 30th where other places say August 6th. Regardless of when you celebrate this event, let your friends know how much you appreciate them! We all know how important friends are to each of us personally. As educators, building friendship within your classroom helps students learn. Students who feel accepted by their peers are more confident. When students feel stress or fear of embarrassment, it can actually disrupt learning. As you prepare to head back to school, you can begin my creating a positive learning environment through discussions, activities and resources. Here are a few ideas to get you started. Discussions: Interact with your students and help them acknowledge the differences between a “good friend” and a bully. There has been a lot of media attention on bullies and peer pressure. As a class, list positive qualities that everyone should look for and set goals to develop those qualities themselves. On the flip side, spend time discussing the difference between someone being “mean” and a bully. Activities: Peer Praise. Your students will thrive in a classroom that is positive and encourages praise. It was a great learning experience for me to see other children interacting and saying words of encouragement. I could have said exactly what my student said, but it was far more meaningful coming from another student. Also, consider reading aloud to your students and discuss friendships within the context of a story at any grade level. Resources: Finding just the right resources at the exact time. Get the year off on the right foot and read stories about friendship. Your students will see the importance of good friends. Big Universe has great resources, simply search “friends” or “friendship”. My favorites: A Circle of Friends by Giora Carmi A wordless book that begs to be told. Your students will love the black and white illustrations and the deep meaning in the story. We all need a good friend! Post it! Sharing Photos of Friends and Family by Suzy Rabbat Every teacher needs to discuss internet safety and issues with posting online. This a go-to resource for every teacher! The Most Unbelievable First Day of School by Cecilia Minden. A funny story that teaches the importance of teamwork and building classroom relationships. Take time at the beginning of the year, you will be glad you did! We love to hear from our readers, what activities help build relationships in your classroom?