Ola! Where does one find "the conjugation button"? If "foram" is the past tense of "ser" = "to be" then I understand how "foram can translate to "were". But if it is the past tense of "ir" = "to go", translating it as 'were" makes no sense to me at all. Am I understanding this correctly?
Here on Duo, it used to be that if you clicked on a verb it would show you a conjugation table for the verb. Duolingo no longer offers that option
Anyway, it's just that "eles foram" can mean either "they went" or "they were" because both of these verbs are conjugated the same way for this tense . Only context will tell you which verb is being translated.
Check out this conjugation table for "ir": http://conjugator.reverso.net/conjugation-portuguese-verb-ir.html
Now check out this conjugation table for "ser" http://conjugator.reverso.net/conjugation-portuguese-verb-ser.html
You will note that the conjugation for Pretérito Perfeito is the same for both verbs (ser and ir)
To conclude: "They went boys" doesn't make any sense, so you know that "Eles foram meninos" means "They were boys"
«Eles eram meninos.» is the imperfect tense, which emphasizes the action that they were for a long time and might still be boys. The above sentence «Eles foram meninos.», though, emphasizes the finality of it. They once were boys. Now, they are not. It is hard to explain. I hope this helped.