This was a bit more tricky than I expected.
We did the blog posts that the first year students had requested and that gave so much great discussion fodder to the second class’ students. The blog posts were excellent when they were done. (One student consistently skipped these.) Student comments on the posts were quite substantive and created a dialogue online about the topics.
In an attempt to move away from the prescriptive assignment of topics, I simply asked students if they had any questions or something to say. They never talked. I was particularly frustrated by this, as it meant that I ended up lecturing for a good part of the class each night.
On the last day of our section, I found out that they had wanted to talk and were waiting for me to call on them individually. Personally I think that is odd, but they are first-year grad students and apparently their other teacher did that.
Next time I could once again assign discussion questions to individual students (or perhaps to two each).
Another option would be to tell students that they must be prepared for a discussion and can use the discussion questions to help them consider points, if they don’t have something they are already intrigued by.
The benefit of the problem was that I developed ideas on several relevant topics in an in-depth way to talk to the students about them. These were more applications of rhetorical ideas than a development of historical rhetoric and rhetorical ideas.
Perhaps I could work on additional development of historical lectures to add to the class. More on Paul and sophistic rhetoric, for example.