Teaching vocabulary is an important part of teaching English, but often times it is not the most exciting. Nobody wants to memorize lists and do regular vocabulary quizzes. It's much better to turn vocabulary lessons and drills into games, isn't it?
A common game to review vocabulary for ESL students is Stop The Bus, a speed game where students write down vocabulary words according to a given category and first letter. If you haven't yet played Stop The Bus, check it out and play it in your next lesson.
City Race is a similar idea.
How It Works:
1. Form your class into teams.
2. Elicit capital cities (or any other themed words)
3. Write a chosen city name vertically from top to bottom on the board for each team.
4. Have the students come up with words beginning with each letter.
5. Award points however you see fit... but make it be known before you start the game
6. Take the rest of the game wherever you want for your class.
Options - After the first round of writing words, build vocabulary with more rounds of work (writing sentences using the words, writing word families for the words they can - ex. Relate -> Relationship)
Award Points - This is magic. Awarding points for each task will get the students enthused and actually trying during the game.
Maintain Control - Have the students remain seated in their groups until they have the marker/chalk to avoid everybody crowded around the board yelling and fighting for the marker the whole time.
Easter Egg Lessons:
Capital Cities - Someone will usually say at least one capital city that other students (or possibly you) won't know. Embrace that!
Learn More About Your Students - In one of my classes, a student insisted on me writing Astana. He eventually said that it was the capital of his birth country.
What else can you find?