A quadruple blackboard at the Helsinki University of Technology

A chalkboard or blackboard is a reusable writing surface on which text or drawings are made with sticks of calcium sulfate or calcium carbonate, known, when used for this purpose, as chalk. Chalkboards were originally made of smooth, thin sheets of black or dark grey slate stone. Modern versions are often green because this is considered easier on the eyes.[1]



Students writing on a blackboard in a village school in Laos

A chalkboard can simply be a piece of board painted with matte dark paint (usually black or dark green). A more modern variation consists of a coiled sheet of plastic drawn across two parallel rollers, which can be scrolled to create additional writing space while saving what has been written. The highest grade chalkboards are made of a rougher version porcelain enamelled steel (black, green, blue or sometimes other colours). Porcelain is very hard wearing and chalkboards made of porcelain usually last 10–20 years in intensive use.

The chalk marks can be easily wiped off with a damp cloth, a sponge or a special chalkboard eraser consisting of a block of wood covered by a felt pad. However, chalk marks made on some types of wet chalkboard can be difficult to remove. Chalkboard manufacturers often advise that a new or newly resurfaced chalkboard be completely covered using the side of a stick of chalk and then that chalk brushed off as normal to prepare it for use.

Chalk sticks

Sticks of processed "chalk" are produced especially for use with chalkboards in white and also in various colours. These are not actually made from chalk rock but from calcium sulfate in its dihydrate form, gypsum.


Magnetic blackboard used for play and learning at the children's museum, Kitchener, Canada (The Museum)

Chalkboards are often used in teaching, although in wealthier countries their use has diminished. University lecture theatres may contain a number of chalkboards in a grid arrangement, with each column mounted on rollers to allow the lecturer to move boards into reach for writing and then move them out of reach, allowing a large amount of material to be shown simultaneously. Chalkboards are also used in many establishments (typically public houses) as a form of advertising often for upcoming events and menus and to record the score in darts matches. Also in homes, specifically in the kitchen, for writing messages, shopping lists and things to remember, as well as sometimes serving a decorative purpose.

Advantages and disadvantages

As compared to whiteboards, chalkboards have a variety of advantages:

  • Chalk requires no special care; whiteboard markers must be capped or else they dry out.
  • Chalk is an order of magnitude cheaper than whiteboard markers for a comparable amount of writing.
  • It is easier to draw lines of different weights and thicknesses with chalk than with whiteboard markers.
  • Chalk has a mild smell, whereas whiteboard markers often have a pungent odor.
  • Chalk writing often provides better contrast than whiteboard markers, which helps people read at a distance.

On the other hand, chalk produces dust, the amount depending on the quality of chalk used. Some people find this uncomfortable or may be allergic to it, and according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI), there are links between chalk dust and allergy and asthma problems.[2] The dust also precludes the use of chalk in areas shared with dust-sensitive equipment such as computers.

The scratching of fingernails on a chalkboard, as well as other pointed, especially metal objects against chalkboards, produces a sound that is well-known for being extremely irritating to most people. Many are averse also to merely the sight or thought of this sort of contact.

Etymology and history

The term "blackboard" dates from around 1815 to 1825[3] while the newer and predominantly American term, "chalkboard" dates from 1935 to 1940.[4]

The chalkboard was introduced into the US education system in 1801.[5][6]


See also


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • chalkboard — chalk board (ch[add]k b[=o]rd ), n. a dark sheet of slate used as a surface for writing on, with chalk. Syn: blackboard. [WordNet 1.5] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • chalkboard — (n.) also chalk board, 1816, from CHALK (Cf. chalk) (n.) + BOARD (Cf. board) (n.1) …   Etymology dictionary

  • chalkboard — ☆ chalkboard [chôk′bôrd΄ ] n. BLACKBOARD …   English World dictionary

  • chalkboard — UK [ˈtʃɔːkˌbɔː(r)d] / US [ˈtʃɔkˌbɔrd] noun [countable] Word forms chalkboard : singular chalkboard plural chalkboards mainly American a blackboard …   English dictionary

  • chalkboard — chalk|board [ˈtʃo:kbo:d US ˈtʃo:kbo:rd] n AmE a ↑blackboard ▪ She wrote the day s menu up on a chalkboard …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • chalkboard — [[t]tʃɔ͟ːkbɔː(r)d[/t]] chalkboards N COUNT A chalkboard is a dark coloured board that you can write on with chalk. Chalkboards are often used by teachers in the classroom. [mainly AM] (in BRIT, use blackboard) …   English dictionary

  • chalkboard — noun (C) AmE a blackboard: Thanks, but the janitor cleans the chalkboard …   Longman dictionary of contemporary English

  • chalkboard — noun Date: 1936 blackboard …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • chalkboard — /chawk bawrd , bohrd /, n. a blackboard, esp. a green or other light colored one. [1935 40, Amer.; CHALK + BOARD] * * * …   Universalium

  • chalkboard — noun (esp. AmE) ⇨ See ↑blackboard …   Collocations dictionary