At the Lycée Condorcet, The International French School of Sydney, I conducted three poetry workshops with three separate groups of funny, raucous and clever Year 7 students.

I taught them how to (mis)translate from French into English and vice versa. We started by (mis)translating French nursery rhymes ("Frère Jacques, Frère Jacques, / Dormez-vous? Dormez-vous?" became "Fear the sharkies, fear the sharkies, / Gourmet food, gourmet food.") and then we moved on to (mis)translate a famous early modernist poem by Guillaume Apollinaire, Les Fenêtres ('The Windows').

Each student contributed 2-3 lines to the group poem, 'Netless Reef', a title which is an anagram of Les Fenêtres. Next, the students composed erasure poems on Les Fenêtres by erasing (blacking or whiting out most of the words of the poem) to leave a smaller, original poem in its wake.

Click here to read the (mis)translated poems »

Finally, the kids worked on their object poem as part of the Red Room's Poetry Object education project in which students write about an object of talismanic importance to them. It was a fun, multilingual day.


Toby Fitch is a poet engaged for Red Room Creative Learning.

Toby Fitch is poetry editor of Overland and program director for the Australian Poets’ Festival. He also works as a bookseller at Gleebooks, a teacher of creative writing at the University of Sydney, and runs the Sappho Books poetry night... read more »


To find out more:

The Red Room Poetry Object »
Red Room Poetry Object is a poetry writing competition inviting young writers and their teachers from across Australia and New Zealand to submit poems about 'talismanic' objects that are special to them. Red Room Poetry Object is open to students in grades 3-10 and their teachers. In 2015, Red Room Poetry Object linked over 160 school communities and published 2560 student and teacher poems.