School students today use computers, paper, and pens or pencils to complete their schoolwork. Mid-19th century students used slates and slate pencils to practice their lessons. Slate is a quarry stone that flakes into sheets. The sheets of stone then were put into wooden frames. Students wrote on a slate with another softer stone, often soapstone. Students could write on both sides of a slate. To clean the slate, students used either a rag or their own shirtsleeves. Sometimes slates had lines incised in them so that students could practice neat rows of handwriting. Nineteenth-century classrooms were not quite. Slate pencils shrieked and squeaked on the slates.