Years 3-6 Social Interaction

What is it?

A child may say words clearly and use long, complex sentences with correct grammar, but they may still present with a communication problem if they have not mastered the rules for social language.

What to expect?

In Years 3, 4, 5 and 6, children will usually:

  • Initiate conversation with other people
  • Listen to, join in, and take turns in group conversations
  • Use language they hear other people using and begin to be aware of the current peer language
  • Begin to be aware of what the listener knows and makes checks while telling a story. Give details that they know are important and will influence the listener.
  • Understands feelings and wishes of their friends, aware of who their friends are and able to give reasons why. Friendships include falling out and making up again.
  • Exaggerate in an implausible way to make stories more exciting way, e.g. last night at granny’s we had the biggest pizza in the world
  • Keep conversations going with a range of people in different situations, by making relevant comments or by asking question
  • Use language to do a wider range of things such as ask, negotiate, give opinions and discuss ideas. This is important for building friendships e.g. complementing, criticising etc.
  • Begin to talk to people in different ways, i.e. one way with their friends and one way with their teacher. Use formal language when appropriate in some familiar situation (e.g. showing a visitor around school)
  • Infer other people’s thoughts and feelings.

Information & advice

You can help by:

  • Use clear, simple language.
  • Be explicit about exactly what you would like the child to do, e.g. “listen to me, then it will be your turn to talk”.
  • Teach new skills in a 1:1 setting with an adult initially, then start to add peers so that the child can learn to generalise new skills.
  • When talking make sure you are face to face and make eye-contact
  • Give the child plenty of time respond and try to avoid anticipating or completing the child’s sentence
  • Use open questions, rather than closed to encourage more than yes/no responses
  • Be honest if you have not understood the child; ask them to explain again. This develops self-awareness and gives them an opportunity to repair the conversation.


  • Using a visual support to pass around when talking in small groups to support staying on topic and social rules
  • Take turns being the teacher – role reversal. This develops the child’s awareness of the knowledge of the listener, encourages them to give appropriate instructions and listen to instructions.
  • Choose a child to sit in a chair, other children ask them questions; the child in the chair pretends to be a famous person.
  • Practice volume and rate of speech for assembly presentations etc.
  • Give child just one minute to talk about a chosen topic and then feedback.