When there are two vowels together in the middle of a word (coat, bead, etc.) I tell the children that the second vowel is pinching the first making it shout it's name. For example, in coat, the a is pinching the o making it shout OOOOOOOO! I tell the children the same thing about silent e. In cake, the silent e is pinching the letter a making it shout AAAAAAA! Silly, but the children think it's funny and they remember it.
I do the same thing with bossy e, except I tell the kids the e taps the vowel on the shoulder and tells it to say its name. Then I call up kids to make words- I give them each a letter and I stand at the end holding the silent e. I reach around the kid next to me and tap the vowel kid and say "SAY YOUR NAME!" in my best bossy voice. Then each kid says their sound and the class blends it to make the word. Then I let some kids have a shot to be the silent e. They get a kick out of it.
My intro for digraphs is based on the story in this video- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8fc_pnz1sh0 I used clipart to make a book about Mr. H and I read it with the kids. Then I made posters based on it and hung them as anchors.
I am not trying to start something, but I thought that most people didn't really teach most of these rules any more. For example, the two vowels go walking rule is accurate less than 50 percent of the time. I have read to only teach rules that occur over 50 percent of the time (silent e, bossy r, etc.)
I think some of these rules are so confusing to kids when they work less than half the time.
I tell my students that the rules dont work all the time. But it really helps them decode unknown words and see patterns. Plus they like the idea of the letters having names. A lot of my students would excitedly show me words with queen e (silent e) or bossy r. I think as long as my students are using the tool, hey why not? It's not useless information if the students like it they use it if not no sweat off my back. Whatever reaches my students, I'm down for.
I think in first grade, it is actually harmful to the struggling readers. (probably in higher grades also) The"good readers" have no problems with the rules they try them or not and can usually figure the word out using multiple strategies. The strugglers are just confused more. They may actually remember the rule but then try it and the odds are it won't work (remember they work less than half the time) then they question their own memory or they are stuck on the word because they used the rule and it didn't work. It also causes the child to only attend to visual cues.
I guess, having worked in reading recovery these methods that confuse our most struggling readers concern me.
Silent e is by far my favorite "rule" to teach. I think it helps most kids. I usually make a card with a word such as mat and then have the e flip beside mat to make mate and show how it changes the word. This book is great: http://www.amazon.com/Here-Comes-Sil.../dp/0375812334