Communication Milestones for the Later Elementary Years


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As the time approaches when many children are headed back to another year of school, many parents are left wondering if their children are ready for what lies ahead. Communication milestones is one term used to describe an intricate weaving of skills and tools that are acquired. These skills include those involving reading, writing, speech, language, use of voice, and more. Communication milestones for children in the older elementary years can be more subtle in nature, but they are nonetheless extremely important.

Communication Milestones in 4th – 6th Grades

Most children have established a foundation of communication by the time they enter kindergarten, and the early elementary years are spent building on those, especially in areas such as reading and writing, as well as more complicated conversations. The older elementary years are no less important than these early years, but their progress might not seem as noticeable. It is during this time when the skills continue to increase at a steady pace, often all the way through high school (and hopefully beyond).

When it comes to communication milestones for older elementary students, look to see that your child is developing in these various areas, both in and out of school.

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  • Listens with intent and purpose
  • Forms opinions based on what is heard
  • Responds thoughtfully to what is heard in conversations
  • Comprehends multi-step oral directions


  • Summarizes information accurately
  • Asks questions out of curiosity, the need to know more information, and as a social gesture
  • Can plan and organize thoughts to speak in front of a class
  • Uses voice inflection to add meaning
  • Is able to use social etiquette of language and contributes meaningfully to conversations
  • Becomes more adept at shifting conversations based on increased awareness of the listener’s needs
  • Uses increasingly complex grammar skills (syntax)
  • Use humor and even sarcasm in conversations

Reading and Writing

  • Can fluently read grade-level books
  • Can follow written directions and write effective directions
  • Uses reference materials, takes notes, and prepares written reports
  • Can effectively compare and contrast ideas, such as with a Venn diagram
  • Has expanded understanding of literature (poetry, fiction, nonfiction, media, etc.)
  • Demonstrates clarity in writing with beginning, middle, and end of stories
  • Uses grammar and punctuation correctly and effectively in writing
  • Can self and peer edit written works
  • Is able to write based on the needs of the audience or assignment by changing sentence structure, vocabulary, and voice
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The development of communication milestones in these elementary years of 4th, 5th, and 6th grades are not as monumental as the first words spoken or the first book ever read, but they are valuable for continued success in school and achieving goals. If you are concerned that your older elementary school child is struggling to reach these developmental milestones, speak with his teachers, healthcare providers, and anyone else involved in his education. Facing challenges throughout life is the reality because there are consistently new milestones and changes. However, your child is never too old to assess learning and communication skills and find help when needed.

When you listen to a conversation between kindergarteners and then another between 5th graders, you should notice a dramatic difference in speech, articulation, vocabulary, and even nonverbal communication. Somewhere along the way your preschooler moved from talking with friends to holding complicated conversations. The milestones that are reached along the way help to prepare your child for the challenges of middle school, and beyond.

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