You will need to teach your students how to talk well about literature, and you'll want to engage as many of them as possible in class discussions. Many students who will be reluctant to speak in front of 44 others will be comfortable in groups of 4 or 5, so you'll want to have both whole-class and small-group conversations.
Think about metaphors for the kind of conversation you want your class to have. Not a boxing match. Not a beauty contest. Not a house and garden tour. Maybe a barn-raising. Maybe the kind of game that involves keeping a ball in the air as long as possible. Talk to your class about this. Make it clear by your own example that you want them to feel free to think aloud, toss out possibilities, make jokes, make mistakes, add to or disagree with something another person says. Make it clear that the conversation is about ideas, not personalities or brain power, and that disagreements aren't personal.
Asking the Right Kind of Questions
Vary them: big vague opening questions (what do you think); mid-vague opening questions (what do you like & why, dislike and why); focused opening questions (are there things here you don't understand); open-ended but directed thinking questions Order them: start with something to draw them in, then get more sophisticated Be clear: ask them; restate until they say yes; if you get nowhere, try another angle on the same issue.
Be loud: make sure you're heard & so are they (harder)