In the course of my literary wanderings I stumbled across this book - The Private Eye (5x) Looking /Thinking by Analogy. by Kerry Ruef. Although the book advocates the use of a jeweler's loupe - a kind of magnification tool, to do observing, it also stresses the immportance of observation, recording observation, and then using that info to make analogies. While it's more geared for a science class, I really liked the idea of recording the observation on paper, but using that observational drawing as a springboard for drawing analogies. You can find out more about this book and the project at www.the-private-eye.com/ruef It also freed me from needing to see 'realism' , instead searching to see the student's observation.
This is a great book - I love the ideas and I really love how it moves from observing what's there to thinking about what it could be..