“Po, the wisdom-seeking hero of the “Kung Fu Panda” films, might recognize this temple in China where the world’s first robot monk dwells. For Po’s Jade Palace, there is Longquan (Dragon Spring) Temple, a place of Buddhist worship in the mountains northwest of Beijing.As for Po himself, there is Xian’er, the two-foot-tall, advice-dispensing robot whose full title is Worthy Stupid Robot Monk. (In the Beijing dialect, “er, or “stupid,” is a term of affection.)” By D.K. Tatlow The New York Times
ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key
Excerpt: A Robot Monk Captivates China… Didi K. Tatlow The New York Times
“A childlike creature in an orange Buddhist robe, Xian’er is an object of fascination in China amid an increasingly urgent pursuit of spirituality and, more recently, artificial intelligence. But Xian Fan, the head of the Comic Center, told National Business Daily that the temple did not plan to commercialize the robot and that its development was for the public welfare. And the monks do not seem to be planning a franchise. There is only one robot monk for now, Xian Fan told Beijing News, adding, “We’re not doing this for commerce, but just because we want to use more modern ways to spread Buddhist teachings.
You TubeXian’er in action:
The robot was created last year by the temple in collaboration with about a dozen Chinese technology, culture and investment companies, according to Chinese news reports…Many visitors to Longquan Temple on Wednesday, however, expressed doubt as to whether Xian’er could really help people with their problems, though some said they expected technology to advance so quickly that future generations of robot monks might. A second, smarter Xian’er is already in development, a center employee said.
Here are some other answers provided by Xian’er, via WeChat:
Q: “What is love?”
A: “Love is your own obsessions not being satisfied, the clashing of other people’s troubles with yours.”
Q: “I don’t want to work.”
A: “If you don’t want to starve and have an O.K. job, work hard.”
Q: “I want to die.”
A: “Don’t assume you’re the most pathetic person in the world.”
Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.
Time: Approximately 2 hours.
Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.
Objective: Students will read and discuss the article with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.
I. Pre-Reading Activities
Predictions: Analyzing headings and photos
Directions: Have students examine the titles of the post and of the actual article. After they examine the photos, ask students to create a list of words and ideas that they think might be related to this article.
II. While Reading Activities
Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.
- Xian’er is an object of fascination in China.
- The temple did not plan to commercialize the robot.
- The robot was created last year by the temple in collaboration with Chinese companies.
- It relies on combinations of words to solve problems.
- Look at how fast artificial intelligence is progressing.
- A Buddhist at the temple liked the robot.
- The robot doesn’t really live up to my expectations.
- Future generations of robot monks might be created.
- These are the answers to some queries.
- Some robots are pretty amazing.
Directions: The following sentences are from the article. Choose the correct word for each blank space.
Many___to Longquan Temple on___, however, ___doubt as to whether Xian’er could really___people with their___, though some said they expected technology to advance so quickly that future generations of___ monks might. A second, smarter Xian’er is already in ___ a center employee said.
Word List: expressed, visitors, help, Wednesday, problems, robot, development,
Grammar Focus: Structure and Usage
Directions: The following groups of sentences are from the article. One of the sentences in each group contains a grammatical error. Students are to identify the sentence (1, 2, or 3 ) from each group that contains the grammatical error.
- It’s development was for the public welfare.
- We’re not doing this for commerce.
- The robot was created last year.
- As an robot, Xian’er has expanded his repertoire.
- He has a touch pad on his chest.
- They would not say who the officials were.
- Po would have be envious of Xian’er.
- The robot doesn’t really live up to expectations.
- Artificial intelligence is progressing.
III. Post Reading Activities
Directions: Have students use the WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.
Who or What is the article about?
Where does the action/event take place?
When does the action/event take place?
Why did the action/event occur?
How did the action/event occur?
Directions: Place students in groups and have them discuss the following statement. Afterwards, have the groups share their thoughts as a class.
1.“I don’t think it’s possible for the intelligence of a robot to be advanced enough to understand human feelings…The robot doesn’t really live up to my expectations. But I’ve seen robots in other parts of the world that can communicate with human beings, and that’s pretty amazing.”
2. Have each group list 3 questions they would like to ask Xian’er.
1-Minute Free Writing Exercise
Directions: Allow students 1 minute to write down one new idea they’ve learned from the reading. Ask them to write down one thing they did not understand in the reading. Review the responses as a class. Note: For the lower levels allow more time for this writing activity.