Slate and Slate Pencils
In early schools, each child owned a book-sized writing slate encased in a wood frame. This was used for practicing script and it traveled to and from school with the student each day. The student scratched the slate with a slate pencil, which was a cylinder of rock. Eventually, the slate pencil was replaced by soft chalk, making it easier to write. Students did not preserve any of their work in the form of what is described today as class notes. Memorization, therefore, was emphasized and achieved through collective recitation led by the teacher. A keen memory characterized a good student.
After the Civil War, manufactured lead pencils similar to those used today were introduced. This also meant that most student work was now written on paper, making the work more portable for both teacher and student. Students owned pencil boxes for the safe transport of these pencils. The pencil was a substantial improvement. Its narrow design made it easier for children especially young children with small hands to control their writing and develop lettering and numbering skills.
Then & Now: