* United States school activities and events classroom blackboard

U.S. School Activities: The Classroom Blackboard

Figure 1.--Here are instructions from a teacher training book about using the blackboard. The book is unidentified, but probably dates from the 1910s. The author tells teachers, "The teacher of writing in the first, second, and third grades should keep the board as free from unnecessary ruled lines as possdible. Too many lines have a tendency to confuse. Old painted lines improperly spaced should be removed in order that the few required may stand out distinctly. It is essential that the children be kept back from the board at nearly arm's length for four reasons: First--the child can see better what to do. Second--He will use the arm by being unable to rest his hand against the board. Third--He will press less heavily against the board with crayon [chalk stick] and cause less squeaking of the chalk. Fourth--He will inhale the minimum of chalk dust. Pitting one team against another or the boys against the girls stimulates and develops good blackboard writing." Put your cursor on the image to see the boy team.

The class blackboard was an important part of American classroom instruction beginning in the 19th century as the country was creating bin public education system. It proved especially important in primary schools because it provided a way for children to do exercises that the teacher could easily monitor and direct. It was also a visual medium for the teacher to convey information. This was the primary use in secondary schools. We are not sure when and whio invented the blackboard. It mist have been in Europe. The first American blackboard appears to have been installed by a school in Philadelphia (1809). Unlike the small boards the children had, the first blackboards were not made from slate. The first blackboards were made with wood, usually pine lumber and painted black with a mixture of egg white and carbon from charred potatoes. We are not sure who came up with this concoction. Teachers and students did not have easy to handle chalk sticks. Instead they wrote with chunks of chalk. For erasewrs they used cloth rags, but the coated wood was not smooth and thus easy to clean. Over time improvements were made. The most importasnt was the slate board. Unlike the early coated lumber, the slate blaclboard never wore up and was very easy to clean. Other improvemernts were cylindrical chalk sticks made from refined soft chalk. Tghese sticks were easier to use than just chunks. And the felt eraser was invented to improve erasing. The slate blackboard became a central part of classroom instruction, ideal for younger children to both leaning to write and do math. Two problens appeared--chalk dust and that terrible noise from the chalk--or fingernails if the boys wanted to misbehave a little. In the late-20th century the greenboard appeared which still used chal and a little later the plastic white board using colored markers.


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Created: 6:50 PM 5/2/2011
Last updated: 6:02 AM 3/20/2016