AN ESL Halloween activity

Scared Silly: A Halloween ESL Activity

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A chill is in the air and Halloween is drawing near. Time for some scary English. I used this time of year for a comepletely ridiculous story and introduced a slew of idiomatic phrases. By the way, on halloween I was always dressed as a vampire!

I drew a lot of surprised and strange looks as I drove to work on my motorcycle! But students loved it. I always tried to bring the feel of the season. Be it Christmas, Thanksgiving or any other holiday, I tried to do my best to make the class feel like they were there experiencing whatever we experienced back home. And now for the first of my spooky Halloween adventures.

Scared SillyESL Halloween


 You are going to think I have bats in my belfry but last Halloween I was scared half to death.  My blood runs cold when I think about it.  My boss had been breathing down my neck to finish that new project by the deadline so I worked till midnight.  It started to rain on the way back home and the road I normally take was washed out.  It was a dead end.  Muhahahahaaaa!  I turned down a detour and before I new it, I was lost.  My car ran out of gas out in the middle of nowhere.  I had no umbrella so I had to walk a couple of miles in the freezing rain.


I finally saw a huge old house and walked up to the front door.  The place gave me the chills (creeps, sent shivers down my spine) but I was afraid I would catch my death of cold.  I knocked on the front door and it slowly squeaked open.  I looked inside but I didn’t see anyone.  “Hello,” I said, “Is anybody here?”  I finally walked inside to look around.  The door slammed shut behind me and I heard an evil laugh echo throughout the house.  I screamed at the top of my lungs, flung open the door and ran out the door.  As I was running away I saw a headless man on the porch and I could hear his disembodied voice yelling “Heads will roll!”


As I jolted awake at my desk there was the boss saying, “Jim, I told you some heads are going to roll if you don’t finish that report.”  As he laughed and swung the giant scythe I realized the dream was not a dream!  As my head bounced onto the floor, I realized I was at death’s door.


And Now The Meanings

at death’s door

– very near death

The Prime Minister was at death’s door after suffering a serious stroke.

catch one’s death of cold

– become very ill (with a cold, flu etc.)

The little boy was told to be careful in the rain or he would catch his death of cold.

better the devil you know than the devil you don’t

– it may be better to endure a situation that you are used to than to risk a change for something that may be worse

He decided to move with the stock broker to his new company because he felt it was better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.

give the devil his due

– recognize the good points of someone who you think is unworthy

Everyone dislikes the man’s personality but to give the devil his due, they admire his skilled workmanship.

heads will roll

– someone will be punished

Heads will roll when our boss learns about the money that we have lost recently.

breathe down one’s neck

– follow closely, threaten from behind

My boss has been breathing down my neck all day to try and get me to finish the report.

blood runs cold

– one is terrified or horrified

My blood ran cold when I saw the man fall off the ladder.

at the top of one’s lungs

– as loud as one can, very loudly

I yelled at the top of my lungs to get the man’s attention.

bats in the belfry

– crazy, eccentric

I think that he has bats in the belfry. His ideas are absolutely crazy

Scared half to death

very frightened

When Jim jumped out from behind the door he scared me half to death.


  1. Can you remember a time when you were scared half to death?
  2. Is there a person you can think of who matches the phrase “give the devil his due?” Why? What is he/she good at?
  3. Have you ever screamed at the top of your lungs?
  4. When was the last time you felt you were at death’s door?
  5. What can we do so we don’t catch our death of cold?
  6. I named this ESL lesson “Scared Silly.” What do you think that means?
  7. Do you like to be scared? Do you like scary movies?
  8. What is the scariest movie you have ever seen?

What happens if you get scared half to death twice?
― Steven Wright

I had to throw that one in there. It’s one of my favorite Halloween jokes. I hope this exercise adds some interesting discussion and new vocabulary to your class. There will be more to come in the future.

So remember, Teaching English is Fun and sometimes scary!



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