Engaging boys in reading and writing is perhaps the hardest thing to do in an 8th grade Language Arts classroom. What works for both? Freedom and guidance. Even though I don't really want to read a 12-page epic on Monkey Marines, my boys will write their hearts out all year if I give them the freedom to try it--and, more importantly, if I take them seriously and guide them as writers. After all, techniques in character development apply to Col. Bananaz, too. For reading--the harder sell of the two--boys need not only the freedom to choose the novels they read, but also someone who knows great YA literature to put the right books in front of them. And as crazy as it sounds, 8th grade boys love a good read-aloud. Short stories, memoirs, novels--doesn't matter: if it's a great story told with the right enthusiasm, they're sucked in every time.