Daily one-to-one instruction with a student’s main teacher has been an integral element of the Oakland Way since the school’s inception. Each student receives at least one 35-minute period per day of one-to-one reading instruction. Children with severe reading disabilities often receive additional one-to-ones and may spend 2.5 to 3 hours daily in intensive reading instruction.

Beginning Readers

Beginning readers practice phonics skills, decoding, and the structural analysis of words using our research-based, multisensory approach. For example, we use tracing packets that correspond with their basal packets. Children trace the raised shapes of the letters of words as they hear and read the sounds orally to bring several senses into play. Drill and repetition are also features of the program at this level. As students become confident in their skills, we introduce oral reading in small peer groups to help children transfer and practice the skills they have learned in one-to-ones.

Recent research shows a nearly 3-year total reading gain in an Oakland student’s first year.

Intermediate Readers

As children become more adept at reading words, oral reading continues to be a focus of daily individual instruction. We understand the immense effort required to read out loud for children with learning and attention issues, so we practice during the safety and acceptance of the one-to-one environment and alternate reading passages out loud. As the teacher reads, he or she is able to model inflection, punctuation observation, and pronunciation, giving the struggling reader a listening break and providing story continuity and improved comprehension. When the student reads, the teacher can observe and evaluate the reader’s skills, detecting weaknesses as well as offering praise and encouragement. Oakland’s daily one-to-one instruction can help students achieve 1.5 to 2 years of progress in reading each year as measured by standardized testing.

A teacher helps a student with specialized reading techniques during summer camp classes.

Confident Readers

At Oakland, students gradually make the shift from learning to read to reading to learn and are moved ahead as quickly as their abilities allow. Daily one-to-ones transition to teaching specific comprehension strategies, developing vocabulary, and improving a reader’s fluency.

Successful Students

Individual instruction also serves as a foundation for building the valued relationship between student and teacher. Because the reading teacher is also the student’s champion and main teacher, he or she serves as a resource beyond reading, including helping students with the following:

  • Study for tests in other classes

  • Practice handwriting

  • Drill multiplication tables

  • Review spelling lists

  • Complete writing assignments

  • Develop a schedule for homework completion

  • Navigate social challenges

  • Set goals for life after Oakland


Students at a beginning level in reading will not have a separate English class, but will receive written language instruction within the reading classroom. As a student’s reading level improves, his or her schedule expands to include an English class. More skilled readers and students with written language difficulties will be enrolled in both a writing and a grammar class. In addition to writing, composition, and grammar, students also receive keyboarding instruction.

Oakland School teaches students basic computer skills while also improving their reading and writing skills.

“Kids who view themselves as poor writers feel like they’re caught in a mudslide. Everything is moving too fast and is out of their control. Oakland’s writing program stops the downward motion so that students can take a realistic look at their own strengths and develop strategies to overcome weaknesses.”

Since many students with attention difficulties struggle with getting their thoughts down on paper, Oakland’s small classes and individualized attention provide a nurturing and accepting environment in which students begin to feel comfortable with the process of writing. Over the years, Oakland students have participated in and won recognition in local and statewide writing competitions.


Math classes at Oakland are taught in small groups of six to eight students and range from basic math concept courses to Geometry for those working above grade level. Student schedules include an instructional period at their appropriate level followed by a guided practice period. Lessons follow textbooks written to cover the Virginia Standards of Learning but are often broken down into smaller, easy-to-follow steps. Teacher-made worksheets help clarify concepts and allow students to be successful.

Interactive teaching methods can help students with learning disabilities better understand assignments.

The multisensory approach found throughout the Oakland program is employed in math classes as well, with students writing on erasable whiteboards, working with manipulatives, reciting mnemonics, and playing math games to reinforce concepts. Prompt feedback on written work and class exercises ensures that students know right away that they’re on track. Lessons are planned to connect to students’ lives and are personalized whenever possible to make the topics more relevant.

Study Skills

Equipping students with a robust toolkit of study skills is a cornerstone of The Oakland Way that benefits children long after they leave our grounds. Content classes at Oakland such as science and history are taught as Study Skills classes to help students become successful in all classes at Oakland and to prepare them to be successful after Oakland.

The Oakland Way helps students grasp study skills that they can implement beyond their time at Oakland.

Most study skills do not come naturally, especially for children with learning difficulties; therefore, skills are taught in isolation as well as  integrated throughout the curriculum. Some of the key study skills taught include the following:

  • Learning the parts of a book including title page, table of contents, index and glossary

  • Effective use of reference materials

  • Efficient and pertinent note taking from books, whiteboards/chalkboards, lectures and media

  • Test preparation and test taking strategies

  • Memorization techniques

  • Learning how to become a flexible reader by exposure to skimming, scanning, and other techniques; and

  • Comprehensive report preparation and writing.

Study skills instruction at Oakland is designed to enhance organizational skills both in terms of materials and time management.

Homework is given, but assignments are manageable and meaningful. In addition, hands-on activities supplement traditional classroom instruction.