The most essential stroke for the would be stern or solo paddler is the J-Stroke. Perhaps the best way to teach this is sitting on a dock, no one is going anywhere, and there’s no worries about tipping. The canoe instructor is also free observe and move around the students, guiding them as required. To practice a left or right hand J-stroke, all the student has to do is turn around.
In the following video, John Langford at Voyageur Quest Outfitting, demonstrates two strokes that will have your canoe traveling in a straight line—the Goon stroke and the J-stroke, and discusses the pros and cons of both.