if you can read traditional chinese, i recommend the book "釧影樓回憶錄" by 包天笑, here's a link of the pdf file:
it's in written vernacular chinese, an easy read, with numerous "gems". the author talked his own experience of learning, and attending examinations at about 1883. related chapter: p43~p54, p72~p78, p83~p114.
briefly, when children had a teacher, or went to a private school (私塾); there were given a book (without punctuations), the teacher would pronounce a verse, students recited what did the teacher say; again and again, until they can recall from memory.
at the same time of recite, students look at the characters, they could connect each character to its pronunciation gradually.
also, at the same time, students marked the pause and stop (句讀) with dots & circles.
such activities repeated daily, weekly, and monthly.
started from trimetrical classic (三字經), thousand character writing (千字文) or other "books for children learning" (童蒙讀物). afterwards, the "proper" reading materials are four books and five classic (四書五經).
back to your question, in the past, no one care about unify the pronunciation. each learn in his/her dialects.
about the tools needed, just books, brush pens and black ink, red ink. maybe "夏楚" (a stick?) as a punish instrument.