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A lesson is a unit of learning. It is either one section of a textbook (which, apart from the printed page, can also include multimedia) or, more frequently, a short period of time (in many cases 45 minutes) during which learners are taught about a particular subject or taught how to perform a particular activity. Lessons can be given anywhere (especially when hands-on experience is called for or when certain materials and/or surroundings are a prerequisite, for example the ocean for a lesson in deep-sea diving), but the majority of lessons are held in institutions of learning, mainly in schools. A private lesson is commonly given in the privacy of either the teacher's or the student's home.

Teachers are generally required, or at least advised, to have a lesson plan ready before starting a class. Methodology is the academic discipline dealing with the appropriate theories, means and methods which help teachers build their lessons and get their message across. While external factors such as the student-teacher ratio must be taken into consideration, methodological investigations very often focus on explaining, and definitely aim at increasing, students' motivation in the face of difficulties caused by the rigid school system. In this context, one basic point of criticism concerns the very idea of lessons – the fact that a typical school day consists of a sequence of, say, 45 minute units where even small children have to switch again and again from one "subject" to the next.

In a wider sense, a lesson is an insight gained by a learner into a hitherto unfamiliar subject-matter. Such a "lesson" can be either planned or accidental, enjoyable or painful. ("He learned his lesson the hard way.") When people teach someone a lesson, they punish or scold them for a mistake they have made in order to ensure that they do not make the same mistake again.

The word lesson comes from Latin lectio "the action of reading (out)". From there, the word was also used for the text itself, very often a passage from the Bible read out during a religious service ("first lesson", "second lesson"). Finally, any portion of a book to be studied was referred to as a lesson.

See also