One of the most vexing problems facing students and teachers alike is the teaching of Federalist #10. Federalist #10 and the issue of factions is critical to understanding the Madisonian model, and the complexities of the design scheme of the United States’ federal system. While students generally grasp the concept of factions and can very easily see the connection between interest groups and political parties, they often are unable to see their inevitable nature in a free society. What are factions, why do they need to be controlled, what is the best way to control them, and furthermore, to what extent does the check on factions, a large republic, still work today?


Whenever a student takes on a complex text, it is essential that they are given time to read, process, collaboratively discuss the ideas, and allow time to process as a whole class. I have chosen a jigsaw technique for Federalist #10 because it will empower students by giving them a sense of ownership on a particular portion and provide them partners with which to discuss the key ideas. Students focusing on one component will allow specialization, and then the ability to learn from their partners. In addition, it would be fruitful for teachers to go over the key questions for each jigsaw group. This will ensure that all students get the information critical to understanding Madison.


If students are struggling with the text, one of the most used approaches, and this can be an accommodation teachers make, is to use APPARTS (Author, Place and Time, Prior Knowledge, Audience, Reason, The Main Idea, and Significance). While this is tedious and cannot be used with all primary sources, for the core documents of the Advanced Placement® Exam, it may be a critical and helpful tool that allows students to make sense of the context and purpose of the document and its placement in the court.


Finally, one of the best techniques teachers can use is to make connections to the present day. Given the intense polarization that has taken hold in the United States, and the competing and intense factions that exist, students should be asked, “Are our factions still checked by the formation of a large republic?,” as Madison suggested they would? This critical question will provide for bountiful discussions about parties, the media landscape, polarization, and the stability of our democratic experiment.


Check out the lesson and activity here!




Pat Sprinkle is a 13th year history teacher at the NYC Lab School for Collaborative Studies, teaching AP® U.S. History and AP® U.S. Politics and Government. Pat is a graduate of The Ohio State University and Columbia University. Pat has served as a member of the Teacher Advisory Council for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, National Humanities Center, and the National Constitution Center. In addition, Pat was a 2013 James Madison Fellow along with a 2021 C-SPAN Fellow. Pat lives in Jersey City, NJ with his wife, son (Franklin), and dog (Lyndon).