Top Notch 1: English for Today’s World

Mr. Kevin L. Landry
Hong Ik University
Lecturer, Department of General Studies

Book Title
Joan Saslow and Allen Ascher. Top Notch 1: English for Today’s World,. NY: Pearson Education, Inc., 2006, Pp.x +128

Joan Saslow and Allen Ascher. Top Notch 1: English for Today’s World,. NY: Pearson Education, Inc., 2006, Pp.x +128

Top Notch 1 is the second book of Pearson-Longman’s six-level ELT course. This book, like the other books in the series, aims to provide opportunities for adult learners to learn natural language by offering teachers a well organized and fully supported, integrated skills text they can use to draw students into situations where they can interact with language in real world ways.

The book’s ten units are titled Getting Acquainted; Going Out; Talking about Families; Coping with Technology; Eating In, Eating Out; Staying in Shape; Finding Something to Wear; Getting Away; Taking Transportation; and Shopping Smart.
Each of the ten units offers integrated activities that are related to the overall theme of the unit. Unit 1, Getting Acquainted, for example, uses realistic and colorful photos that depict friendly people from different parts of the world in interpersonal settings to prompt students to exchange personal information and introduce someone else. The students are then lead through listening, multiple choice, conversation, grammar, pair work, pronunciation, vocabulary, reading, writing, and finally checkpoint activities to gauge their progress.

Other units offer similar organization patterns on different topics: Unit 2 uses entertainment events as prompts for students to make invitations, talk about likes and dislikes, and give directions; unit 3 has students explore similarities and differences by describing a family member and comparing their family to a celebrity’s; unit 4’s goals include suggesting a brand, expressing frustration, describing features, and complaining; unit 5 is organized around restaurants, menus and ordering; unit 6 has students discuss daily exercise and diet; unit 7 focuses on shopping for clothes; unit 8 examines types of vacations and travel problems; unit 9 looks at different types of vacation transportation; and unit 10 explores money, travel, and conversations about prices.

In addition to the book’s well organized units, the book also offers a comprehensive reference section at the back which includes an alphabetic word list, a social language list, and a host of other relevant items.

One of the features teachers and students may find welcoming is the balanced way the book addresses grammar. In unit 1, for example, the Topic Preview encourages students to try out language they already know to motivate them to learn even if they have trouble expressing themselves before thinking about grammar. Grammar is then addressed two pages later. This gives students who do not need assistance the opportunity to move quickly through the grammar section and on to ones where they can expand on their opinions and contribute more deeply to class discussions while offering an additional explanation that can be comforting for students who need additional reassurance.

One possible drawback of the text is its conversation models. The models may appear simple and less than dynamic at first, but they can indeed help to warm up the group and get them ready to talk about their own experiences, engage in role plays, and answer questions. Another possible concern is that the book’s organization may appear light, but teachers will find this uncluttered layout welcoming as they explore the full range of accompanying materials: a workbook, a teacher’s edition which includes expansion activities, audio and video programs, placement and assessment packages, and a companion website (

Overall, ELT teachers who work with adult learners will find Top Notch 1, as well as the series it is a part of, to be an organized and well supported language learning package to help their students with their language needs. I would certainly recommend this book to ELT teachers who wish to ease learners into confidently developing international communication competence.