Communication Milestones for the Early Elementary Years

Image Courtesy of

Image Courtesy of

The other day here at the Speech Buddies Blog we reviewed the communication milestones for preschoolers and kindergarteners. While it is true that the first five years of a child’s life are a time of tremendous brain growth and development, it doesn’t mean that the communication milestones for the early elementary years are any less important. In fact, these years mark times of increased independent learning and reliance on the communication skills developed by the time your child is ready for first grade. But what are the milestones in the early elementary years that kids should develop to prepare them for middle school and beyond?

It’s important to review what makes up “communication” as a general set of skills and tools. The three main parts are the voice, speech, and the language (including written, spoken, singing, and more). The combination of these areas, along with articulation, voice, and fluency, form your child’s set of communication milestones.

Communication Milestones in the Early Elementary Years

Between the first and third grades there are many new communication skills your child should be developing. They are experiencing cognitive, social, and emotional growth and their communication should be a reflection of these other areas. Your child will be listening, speaking, reading, writing, and using non-verbal communication in various ways.

Listening Milestones

  • Able to remember longer sets of directions
  • Able to respond appropriately to oral instructions of 3 steps or more
  • Reacts to auditory clues such as tone of voice
  • Can follow group conversations
Image Courtesy of

Image Courtesy of

Speaking Milestones

  • Gives clear oral directions
  • Speaks with a logical flow when telling stories
  • Responds clearly to questions with full sentences
  • Understands the idea of taking turns in conversations
  • Uses language to express emotions as well as cognitive ideas
  • Uses tone and voice inflection for emphasis of the spoken word

Reading and Writing Milestones

  • Continues to build upon the pre-reading skills to move from “first readers” to small chapter books during these years
  • Reads independently by third grade
  • Understand the concepts of authors and illustrators
  • Can orally summarize stories that have been read
  • Has enough phonetic skills to sound out words that have not been seen before, even if not quite sounding out the words with 100% accuracy
  • Can identify characters, plots, and resolutions in stories
  • By third grade effectively uses more engaging parts of speech such as adjectives and adverbs when writing
  • Has legible printing and beginning cursive skills (if cursive is taught in the school)
  • Can answer grade-level appropriate short-answer test questions
  • Spells most grade-level words correctly, at least phonetically
  • Organizes writing in a logical sequence
  • Uses correction punctuation
  • Uses correct grammar
Image Courtesy of

Image Courtesy of

Non-Verbal Communication Milestones

  • Maintains eye contact during conversations
  • Uses appropriate facial expressions when reacting to ideas or when engaged in conversations
  • Uses appropriate gestures during conversations or when telling stories
  • Shows increased confidence in speaking in front of classes or small groups

Why Should I Care About These Early Elementary Milestones?

When looked at as a whole, communication involves many different skills sets. Children who are behind or struggling with any one of these milestones, even during these early years, can be negatively affected for years to come. Researchers believe that communication and language skills evident in the first grade can indicate successes in later academic years. If you notice signs that concern you, or you think your child might just be “off” for his or her grade level, work with teachers at the school and your child’s healthcare provider to assess these milestones and make sure your child is on track to succeed.

Parent's Guide to Speech & Communication Challenges
Find your speech solution
Language Development School