Here's a great quote about the power of deeply engaged learning by Susan Engel in the Op Ed section of the New York Times. Engel argues that instead of a curriculum crushed by "laundry lists" of superficial skills, students would be better served by rigorous focused goals such as immersing learners in purposeful reading and writing:
"In this classroom, children would spend two hours each day hearing stories read aloud, reading aloud themselves, telling stories to one another and reading on their own. After all, the first step to literacy is simply being immersed, through conversation and storytelling, in a reading environment; the second is to read a lot and often. A school day where every child is given ample opportunities to read and discuss books would give teachers more time to help those students who need more instruction in order to become good readers.
Children would also spend an hour a day writing things that have actual meaning to them — stories, newspaper articles, captions for cartoons, letters to one another. People write best when they use writing to think and to communicate, rather than to get a good grade."
Read more at http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/02/opinion/02engel.html?emc=eta1